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ECOWAS cancels most of the economic sanctions on the golpist countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea. It is a deep change in strategy



ECOWAS cancels most of the economic sanctions on the golpist countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea. It is a deep change in strategy

After several years of tug-of-war with the ruling military coup in Mali, Guinea, and Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to change its strategy.

Meeting at an extraordinary summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Sunday, Feb. 25, it decided to lift most of the sanctions imposed against Bamako, Conakry, and Niamey following the military’s overthrow of elected presidents between 2020 and 2023. The main goal of these political, economic, and trade restrictions was to force the military to hold elections within a reasonable time frame. So far, to no avail, the leadership of the economic association has decided to change course.

“We need to reexamine our current approach to seeking a constitutional order in four of our member states,” said Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, currently president of ECOWAS. His speech included Burkina Faso, also led by a military leader, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, but for which sanctions remain in place for the time being.

As for Niger, ECOWAS decided to “lift with immediate effect” the closure of land and air borders, end the suspension of all economic transactions between ECOWAS countries and Niamey, and lift the freeze on assets held by the Nigerian state at commercial and central banks. This was a gesture of appeasement without any quid pro quo. This will allow energy to flow back into the battered African country from Nigeria, as well as much-needed food supplies.

Although ECOWAS had previously set as a precondition the release of deposed Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum and his wife, who were held captive by the junta in the presidential palace for seven months, the West African states have now disregarded this requirement. ECOWAS Commission Chairman Omar Touray said some targeted sanctions and political sanctions remained in place for Niger without providing details.

None of the ECOWAS demands have been met.

At the same time, West African heads of state announced an end to financial and economic sanctions imposed on Guinea, specifically a ban on financial transactions between Conakry and the body’s member states. ECOWAS’ latest offer to West African military regimes was the lifting of “restrictions imposed on the recruitment of its nationals to hold professional positions within ECOWAS institutions.”

Most of the economic and territorial sanctions decreed in an attempt to bring Colonel Assimi Goïta into line were dropped in July 2022 in exchange for the military regime publishing a transition timetable. This timetable was not adhered to by Colonel Goïta. In September 2023, the Malian president announced a “slight” postponement of presidential elections scheduled for February 2024, but no new date was set.

Mali also had its economic sanctions lifted at a time when the country’s government had virtually lost control of half the country, which had come under the control of the Tuareg people. Burkina Faso will also come to enjoy sanctions relief after terrorists killed 170 villagers in its territory yesterday.

If nothing else, this event comes as a breath of realism in an unfortunately increasingly politically unstable region. Returning to deal with the governments that nonetheless, legitimately or not, are governing large areas of these territories and canceling the economic sanctions still means improving the situation of the local populations and seeking a common solution to the insecurity caused by too many militias and insurgent movements.

The big losers are certain Western powers that think it is okay to starve the people while waiting for unlikely internal uprisings or for coup governments, of their own volition, to leave power.

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