Tuggar: ECOWAS to redress Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger withdrawal

By: Adoba Echono

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The Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS is working assiduously towards resolving the issues surrounding the withdrawal by Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger from the regional bloc.

The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador, Yusuf Tuggar, stated this while briefing journalists at the end of the one-day Extraordinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council (MSC) at the Ministerial Level in Abuja, Nigeria.

Ambassador Tuggar, who is also the Chair of the Mediation and Security Council, said the collaboration among ECOWAS member states towards regional peace and integration has been unflinching and expressed optimism that the issue facing the region will be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

According to Tuggar, “ECOWAS maintain the avenues of dialogue, of conciliation, of diplomacy and that is what has further been reaffirmed here.”

“ECOWAS is cognisance of the fact that the intention of the three countries namely Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to exit ECOWAS will bring more hardship and will do more harm to the common citizens of the three countries than good, that is why we continue to urge the three countries to remain and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation and ECOWAS is going to redouble its efforts towards diplomacy towards dialogue and towards reconciliation.”  

Ambassador Tuggar also reiterated the commitment of Mediation and Security Council for the activation of the Standby Force for the region.

“One of the decisions taken here was on the issue of the ECOWAS Standby Force to combat terrorism, the need to activate it as quickly as possible.”

“As you know the issue of terrorism presents an existential threat to all the countries in the community including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.”

“It is important to also bear in mind that ECOWAS in spite of the sanctions has continued, during the course of this period, to render support in different forms to these countries when it comes to the issue of fighting terrorism.”

The meeting, which was aimed at addressing issues that culminated in the recent decision by the three countries to withdraw from the bloc, also delved into Senegal’s pressing electoral situation, as well as the need for regional cooperation.

According to Tuggar, “this is amidst the potential implications for their people and indeed, for the Community as a whole, and to review unfolding situation in Senegal and develop a plan to navigate resulting complexities.” 

Tuggar said the bloc is committed to devising solutions to the challenges presented by the situation in Senegal.

“Let me underscore that in our pursuit of solutions, we must remain committed to the principles of democratic governance and safeguarding the right of our people to freely elect their leaders.

“I commend the collective efforts of all our Member States in upholding the decision by ECOWAS on those Member States that have deviated from constitutional governance.

“ECOWAS commitment to addressing these challenges underscores our shared dedication to preserving the democratic principles upon which our organisation stands.

“We are sovereign and independent nations, but support the rights of all our citizens to the same basic and fundamental freedoms.

 “It goes without saying that we are stronger, together: as a Community we project not just our common values and a more attractive market.

In his opening speech, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Dr Alieu Touray said that this is the best time for the region to stay together as a community despite the challenges.

He emphasised that ECOWAS is not an institution but a community adding that the claims given by the countries that exited the bloc has no real basis but were hasty.

The commission’s President explained that the separate official notifications by the three countries to withdraw from ECOWAS on January 29 this year had wider implications, which needed to be redressed.

He said: “To justify their action, the three countries outlined their grievances with ECOWAS, which include the perceived departure of ECOWAS from the Pan-African ideals of its founding fathers”.

“Perceived influence of hostile foreign powers on ECOWAS, a feeling of abandonment by ECOWAS in their fight against terrorism; and the imposition of illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions by ECOWAS.

“These claims have no real basis; the hasty intent on withdrawal of membership from ECOWAS did not take into account the conditions for withdrawal of membership from ECOWAS.”

According to Touray, such decisions were espoused in the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty, but more importantly, the three-member states had not reflected the implications of this decision on the citizens.

He decried Senegalese President Macky Sall’s decision to repeal Decree 2023-2283 of 29th November, 2023, while convening the county’s electoral body for the country’s 25th February, 2024 presidential election, adding that it was of concern to the community.

This, according to him, resulted in the postponement of the country’s presidential election to 15th December, 2024 followed by the adoption by the National Assembly.

“These developments have engendered crisis in the country and the sub-region; these unfolding events in the region are posing threats to peace and political stability in our Community”.

Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), represented by Mr Bankole Adeoye, AUC’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, called for urgent steps to tackle ECOWAS issues.

Mahamat said: “This meeting is critical in our view and we believe the extraordinary nature reflects the urgency to address these conflicting matters on our continent, particularly in West Africa.

“We are continually faced with terrorism, violence extremism, insurgencies, difficult disruption, and governance deficit, if these issues are not addressed promptly and holistically, we may undermine our democratic gains.

“Regrettably, we have continued to experience these complex challenges, particularly in this Sahel.”

He urged the three countries to constantly dialogue with ECOWAS, adding that the bloc would ensure that security; democracy, good governance, and economic development would advance its lofty ideals.

Mr Leonardo Simao, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) decried the three countries’ withdrawal, noting that it would hinder engagement between ECOWAS and the member states.

He promised to work closely with the ECOWAS community in support of the national and regional efforts to ensure sustainable peace, security, and development within the region.

 

Hauwa M.