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ECOWAS Taps Senegal’s Faye To Mediate With Breakaway States

WEST Africa’s regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has tasked Senegal’s President Basirou Diomaye Faye with mediating talks with the three military junta-led states—Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso—that withdrew from the group earlier this year. The move aims to restore stability in the region, which has been under threat since these nations left ECOWAS in January.

During its summit in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, ECOWAS appointed Faye as its envoy to engage with the breakaway countries, which formed their own union following coups that strained relations with their neighbours. Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS Commission, praised Faye, Africa’s youngest leader since his March election, for his suitability as a facilitator, though the specifics of the dialogue remain unclear.

‘The three countries have irrevocably turned their back on ECOWAS,’ the bloc’s nearly 50-year history first experiencing such a departure, said Touray at the summit. Analysts believe Faye’s mission is critical amid the regional crisis, yet expect progress to be slow due to ongoing tensions.


Touray highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting, ‘Our region is also faced with the risks of disintegration.’ He warned that leaving ECOWAS could mean losing benefits such as free trade and movement within member states, potentially impacting the citizens of the three countries and neighbouring regions. ECOWAS may suspend economic projects in these nations if they do not rejoin the bloc.

The security crises shared by Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, which are spreading across the region, add another layer of complexity. The coups in these countries could embolden other militaries, particularly in nations where citizens feel they are not benefitting from natural resources.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who was asked to continue as the bloc’s chairman beyond his one-year tenure, emphasised the need for stronger partnerships to tackle the region’s challenges. ‘Together, we can pave the way for a prosperous future for all of West Africa,’ Tinubu said.

Background and context

The departure of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS marks an unprecedented event in the bloc’s history. Formed nearly 50 years ago to foster economic cooperation and political stability in West Africa, ECOWAS has faced numerous challenges, but the withdrawal of these member states is a significant blow.

The three countries have cited manipulation by former colonial power France and a lack of sufficient support from ECOWAS in their anti-insurgency efforts as key reasons for their exit. This departure has not only created political rifts but has also raised concerns about the future of regional cooperation and stability.

The role of Senegal’s president

Senegal’s President Basirou Diomaye Faye, elected in March as Africa’s youngest leader, has been chosen to mediate in this delicate situation. Known for his diplomatic skills and regional influence, Faye is seen as a beacon of hope to restore dialogue and potentially reintegrate the three countries back into ECOWAS.

Challenges ahead

Faye’s assignment comes with its own set of challenges. The immediate task is to establish the terms of dialogue with the breakaway states. Given the firm stance of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, which declared their permanent departure from ECOWAS, achieving a consensus will be difficult.

Economic implications

The withdrawal of these countries from ECOWAS has significant economic implications. The bloc offers free trade and visa-free movement among member states, benefits that are now at risk for the citizens of the departing nations. Additionally, ECOWAS may halt economic projects in these countries, further straining their economies.

Security concerns

Security is another pressing issue. The Sahel region, encompassing Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, has been plagued by insurgent violence. These nations share borders and face common security threats that require collective action. Their exit from ECOWAS complicates coordinated efforts to combat terrorism and insurgency in the region.

The broader impact

The situation in West Africa serves as a cautionary tale for the broader continent. The instability in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso could embolden other militaries in Africa, especially in nations where citizens feel marginalised and deprived of their countries’ wealth. This potential domino effect underscores the importance of stability and democratic governance.

Moving forward

The ECOWAS summit underscored the need for new partnerships and stronger alliances to navigate these challenges. President Tinubu’s call for unity and collaboration reflects the bloc’s commitment to overcoming its current predicament.

The mediation efforts led by President Basirou Diomaye Faye represent a critical juncture for West Africa. The outcomes of these efforts will determine whether the region can mend its fractures and move towards a more stable and prosperous future. The stakes are high, and the path forward will require diplomatic finesse, mutual understanding, and a renewed commitment to regional cooperation.

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