ECOWAS Steps Up Efforts To Reintegrate Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger

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ECOWAS

ECOWAS Steps Up Efforts To Reintegrate Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger

 

The Economic Community of West African States on Wednesday highlighted the critical need to secure Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger to combat terrorism in the region.

This was emphasised by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, at the Road to Schuman Security and Defence Conference in Abuja.

Organised by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria, ECOWAS, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, the Office of the National Security Adviser, Cleen Foundation, and the ECOWAS Commission, the conference addressed the theme ‘Reducing Vulnerabilities through Partnerships – A Stakeholders’ Engagement on Regional Defence and Security Perspectives.’

Ambassador Musah stressed that the instability in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has fueled the rise of terrorism in West Africa.

He cautioned that if terrorism gains control in any of these countries, it could destabilise the entire region.

“We know that the three member states, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, who decided to withdraw from ECOWAS to recreate an alliance of the Sahelian States, complicated the fight against terrorism.

“ECOWAS is doing everything to bring these countries back into the region. We need them back because of the partnerships against terrorism. We are all aware of the growing threats of terrorism, especially in Burkina Faso.

“If the region does not take care to resolve the issue and these terrorising forces team up with the Islamic State-West Africa Province and the Transnational Organised Crime, then the whole region will be in trouble.

“If we allow terrorism to persist in one country in the region, such as Burkina Faso, it is going to be a staging base not only against Africa but also against Europe and everybody. We cannot fight terrorism without the countries that are the greatest victims: Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso,” Musah warned.

The commissioner highlighted that ECOWAS was gearing up for an upcoming summit on regional integration, aiming to convene all 15 member states, including Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

The summit intends to address the challenges faced by ECOWAS, explore the reasons behind the withdrawal of the three countries, and discuss strategies to bring them back into the fold.

Additionally, he announced that in June, the Ministers of Finance and Defence from the region will gather in Abuja to devise funding mechanisms for the initiatives outlined by ECOWAS.

The initial funding target is set at $2.4 billion, earmarked to establish a counter-terrorism force in the region.

“However, we are preparing for a future summit for regional integration where we intend to invite all the 15 member states (including Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso) to discuss the challenges of ECOWAS, what led to the withdrawal of the three countries, and what it will take to bring them back.

“In June, the Ministers of Finance and Defence in the region would meet in Abuja to work out the modalities to fund the kinetics that the ECOWAS is putting out, beginning with $2.4billion to stand up the counter-terrorism force in the region.

“The committees of the Chief of Defence Staff have already come out with the concept of operation,” he added.

The EU representative, Charlie Stuart, stressed that addressing terrorism necessitates a multilateral approach.

Stuart highlighted that the underlying causes of insecurity, such as economic challenges and climate change, must also be addressed comprehensively.

Stuart assured that the EU stands prepared to support the region’s endeavours in combating terrorism, underlining the importance of collaborative efforts in tackling this pressing issue.

He said, “Insecurity is increasingly worrying and requires the need for an effective multilateral approach.

“The EU is ready to support the regional counter-terrorism efforts.

“We need to understand what the gaps are, and we need to understand what can be done to close the gap.”

Widely seen as West Africa’s top political and regional authority, the 15-nation bloc of ECOWAS – formed in 1975 to promote economic integration in member states – has struggled in recent years to reverse a wave of military takeovers in the region, including Mali in 2020 and 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Niger last year.

Unfortunately, the three countries, which mulled a counterforce, the Alliance of Sahel States, against the regional bloc after the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Niger, announced their exit from ECOWAS on Sunday, January 28, 2024.

The three countries, which are currently under military rule, said in a joint statement that they ceased to be members of ECOWAS as the regional body had allegedly “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism.”

The sanctions were, however, lifted in February 2024 following the intervention of Nigeria’s ex-military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.