July 18, 2024

ECOWAS warns of regional disintegration following creation of Sahel confederation

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ECOWAS warns of regional disintegration following creation of Sahel confederation

ECOWAS warns of regional disintegration following creation of Sahel confederation

During a summit on Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expressed grave concerns over the formation of a “Sahel Confederation” by the military-led governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

The three nations, which have experienced military coups in recent years, announced the creation of this new confederation on Saturday in Niamey.

The unprecedented announcement came just one day before ECOWAS’s summit, presenting a significant challenge to the regional body. Earlier this year, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger had already withdrawn from ECOWAS, intensifying the organization’s struggle with jihadist violence, financial difficulties, and efforts to establish a regional force.

ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray, speaking at the summit in Abuja, Nigeria, highlighted the severe consequences that the creation of the Sahel Confederation could bring.

He warned that the three countries face potential “diplomatic and political isolation” and significant economic repercussions, including the loss of millions of euros in investments. Additionally, citizens of these nations may soon require visas to travel within the region.

Touray also emphasized that this schism could further exacerbate regional insecurity and hinder the establishment of a regional force.

“Apart from the numerous threats related to peace and security and the challenges of poverty, our region is also facing the risks of disintegration,” he cautioned.

The military leaders of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, who have severed ties with France, the former colonial power, and expelled French troops, seem unyielding.

Niger’s leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, on Saturday called for the creation of “a community free from the grip of foreign powers.”

He declared that the people of these nations had “irreversibly turned their backs on ECOWAS,” rejecting the bloc’s calls for reintegration.

The summit also marked the debut of Senegal’s new President, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who had previously expressed optimism about reconciliation.

“We must do everything to avoid the withdrawal of the three brother countries from ECOWAS.

It would be the worst-case scenario and a severe blow to the Pan-Africanism our founding fathers bequeathed to us,” Faye said, urging for reforms to adapt ECOWAS to contemporary realities.

In response to the new confederation, ECOWAS defense and finance ministers discussed funding a long-proposed “regional force to combat terrorism and restore constitutional order.”

The proposal includes an initial unit of 1,500 troops, with plans to expand to a 5,000-strong brigade at an estimated annual cost of $2.6 billion.

Despite past military interventions by ECOWAS, the bloc’s threat of intervention following Niger’s coup did not materialize.

With financial constraints growing more acute, Touray noted the bloc’s dwindling resources.

Amid speculation over Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s future as ECOWAS chair, the organization confirmed on Sunday that Tinubu would continue in his role.

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