West African Bloc ECOWAS Lifts Post-Coup Sanctions on Junta-Led-Nations

ECOWAS lifted economic sanctions on Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso on Saturday and also resolved to countries to attend its technical and consultative meetings as well as all security related meetings.

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West African Bloc ECOWAS Lifts Post-Coup Sanctions on Four Countries
Image: ecowas.int

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to lift some sanctions on Niger, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. 

The decision came after extensive discussions during an extraordinary summit on political, peace, and security matters at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria on Saturday. 

The move is seen as a strategic gesture of appeasement to encourage the three West African nations to reconsider their planned withdrawal from the alliance.

The Sanctions Lifted 

West African Bloc ECOWAS Lifts Post-Coup Sanctions on Four Countries
Image: ecowas.int

ECOWAS lifts financial, economic, and travel sanctions on Niger, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. However, political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain. Announcing the resolutions, ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Omar Touray, outlined the sanctions the bloc lifted:

The closure of land and air borders to Niger has been suspended, along with the lifting of the no-fly zone for commercial flights. Additionally, the bloc suspended all financial transactions frozen between ECOWAS states and Niger, including those related to the bloc’s central bank. They also unfreeze all assets of Niger in ECOWAS Central banks and the freezing of assets of Niger State and its enterprises in commercial banks.

Moreover, ECOWAS lifted the travel ban on military junta members and their families, a decision grounded in “humanitarian considerations due to Lent and the approaching month of Ramadan.” The ECOWAS Authority has further lifted sanctions on the election of Malian citizens to ECOWAS positions. Guinea, too, received relief, and all four countries received invitations to attend technical consultative meetings of ECOWAS moving forward.

In a plea to withdraw member states, ECOWAS urged them to reconsider their decision, emphasizing the benefits enjoyed by their citizens. Touray reiterated that the decisions are based on humanitarian considerations, particularly during the month of Lent and as preparations for Ramadan begin. All ECOWAS institutions, member states, and regional entities are directed to implement these decisions. 

More Insight 

ECOWAS had previously imposed sanctions on Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Niger Republic in the wake of a military coup in these countries last year.

In response, the countries expressed their intent to withdraw from the regional bloc permanently. In a joint statement broadcast on state television, on January 28, 2023, the juntas emphasized the sovereignty of their decision to withdraw. They accused ECOWAS of imposing harsh sanctions perceived as attempts to reverse recent coups in their respective countries.

The military leaders accused ECOWAS of imposing inhumane sanctions and claimed the bloc, influenced by foreign powers, had transformed into a threat to its member states and their populations.

Amidst these developments, General Yakubu Gowon, the sole surviving founding father of ECOWAS and former Nigerian Head of State, addressed an open letter to the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government earlier this week. 

He urged the removal of sanctions on Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger and called on the three nations to reconsider their decision to exit the organization.

Why This Move Is Significant 

ECOWAS’s ease of sanctions on the four countries holds substantial significance for several reasons:

Diplomatic Outreach and Reconciliation

Easing sanctions reflects a diplomatic approach by ECOWAS, showcasing a willingness to engage in dialogue and reconciliation. The regional body seeks to address concerns and foster an environment conducive to collaboration.

Preventing Regional Fragmentation

The planned withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger from ECOWAS posed a risk of regional fragmentation. By extending an olive branch and offering an opportunity to participate in technical discussions, ECOWAS aims to address internal divisions and rebuild solidarity.

Preserving Economic Integration

With trade and services flows valued at nearly $150 billion annually, the disentanglement of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger from ECOWAS could disrupt established economic ties. 

Managing Coups

Acknowledging the potential danger of coups spreading in West Africa, ECOWAS seeks to reestablish its influence and authority in the region. The move to ease sanctions is a proactive measure to mitigate the risk of political instability.

Maintaining Regional Progress

ECOWAS, established in 1975, has played a crucial role in promoting economic integration and stability in West Africa. Easing sanctions signifies a commitment to maintaining the progress achieved over nearly five decades and preventing any setbacks.

Juliet Anine

Juliet Anine is an accomplished writer and editor, boasting over five years of experience in the field. She specializes in crafting compelling narratives and excels in reporting and news writing.

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