ECOWAS to Ease Sanctions on Niger

Sudan Events – Sumaya Sayed

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders met for a summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja with the region in crisis after coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger since 2020 and two attempted coups elsewhere in recent weeks.

ECOWAS commission President Omar Touray said heads of state group from Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone would engage with Niger regime’s CNSP leadership to decide on progress towards a transition and other conditions for lifting sanctions.

International attention has focussed on the region’s most recent coup in Niger, when troops ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, prompting ECOWAS to impose tough sanctions and suspend trade.

The withdrawal of French troops from the Sahel — the region stretching along the Sahara across Africa — has heightened fears jihadist violence will spread southward to Gulf of Guinea ECOWAS states of Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast.

But recent talks with the military regime in Niamey stalled. ECOWAS called for Bazoum’s immediate return to power, but Niger’s rulers have kept the ousted president in detention and want up to three years for a transition back to civilian rule.

Touray said ECOWAS recognised the “dire humanitarian” situation in Niger, but accused the rulers in Niamey of interfering with the flow of aid that was allowed into the country.

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is current chair of ECOWAS and US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee was also at the meeting to discuss how to support Niger’s return to democratic rule and Sahel security.

ECOWAS leaders also discussed the delayed or uncertain transitions back to civilian rule and elections for Mali, Faso and Guinea.

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