The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and other major stakeholders were brainstorming to find lasting solutions to the situation in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and possibly convince the three Sahel countries to return to the regional bloc from where they withdrew last month.
Indications to this development emerged during the Extraordinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council at the Ministerial Level, held at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Thursday, stressing that the political situation in Senegal over the postponement of the presidential election also raised concerns for the regional Community.
Declaring the session open, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, who is also the Chair of the Council, in his remarks said: “Our meeting here today provides us the opportunity to carefully assess the challenges presented by the decision of the military rulers of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to arbitrarily to withdraw from ECOWAS, with all the potential implications for the lives of their people, and indeed for the Community as a whole.
“We are also here to review the unfolding situation in Senegal and develop a plan to navigate the resulting complexities. We have faced similar crises in the past. As a region, we have not been found wanting. There are high expectations out there, from ordinary people as well as our partners in the international community that this meeting can come up with far-reaching decisions to transform our challenges into opportunities.
“It goes without saying that we are stronger, together: as a Community we project not just our common values and a more attractive market. We also can deal more effectively with those shared challenges that go beyond national borders: climate change, violent extremism, migration and organized crime, to name but a few.”
In his remarks, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, decried withdrawal of the three Sahel countries from the Community, adding that their reasons for quitting the regional bloc were not plausible.
He warned of the implications of such withdrawal to the citizens of the three countries, saying: “We have therefore prepared two Memoranda on this issue for your consideration, including an analysis of the wider implications of the withdrawal for the concerned Member States and the Community at large.”
He also decried the situation in Senegal saying: “While we were preparing for this MSC Session, another worrying development emerged in Senegal. As Your Excellencies are well aware, on the eve of the commencement of electoral campaigns for the Presidential election in Senegal, President Macky Sall informed the people in an address to the nation of his decision to repeal decree 2023- 2283 of 29 November, 2023, convening the electoral body for the presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2024.’’
The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who was represented by Bankole Adeoye, expressed solidarity with the ECOWAS, stressing that the decision by the three countries will undermine regional efforts at making progress.