Withdrawal from ECOWAS: "Diplomacy must pull out all the stops to keep these countries in the Community fold" Spécial

When asked about the withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS, Timbuktu Institute Regional Director Dr Bakary Sambe pointed out that the warning signs had been there since these countries created the Alliance of Sahel States (Sahel). In his view, if these states persevere in this dynamic, there is cause for concern, even if, with diplomacy, it is always possible to bring back its founding members.

Yesterday, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). "The warning signs were there, as we analyzed in a recent Timbuktu Institute Observatory Newsletter, as early as September 2023, seeing in the establishment of the Alliance of Sahel States a progressive threat to the regional collective security mechanism," responded Dr. Bakary Sambe, Director of the Timbuktu Institute. For him, the countries in question shared a concern not only to protect themselves against ECOWAS, but also to no longer be bound by the legal frameworks governing it.

"The strengthening of ties between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, while grafting other agreements onto security cooperation, was a clear sign that an exit was in the offing, despite all the efforts of the region's Heads of State to keep them in the Community fold", explains the specialist in regional and Sahel issues. Many link the exit of these countries to ECOWAS's management of coups d'état. On this point, Bakary Sambe believes that it is true that ECOWAS tried to manage institutional crises as a matter of urgency, by activating the classic lever of sanctions, whereas the international geopolitical context offered the countries concerned not only loopholes, but also choices, notably with the Russian offer, which completely changed the deal.

As for the outlook, the specialist believes that we're heading for an uncertain future. "If the states in question lock themselves into this alliance, we'll have to anticipate a number of situations, some as worrying as others", he maintains. He is thinking, among other things, of the fragmentation of regional efforts to combat terrorism. The decision could also have a negative impact on the efforts of the African Union, weakening the organization's role by complicating its attempts to coordinate security efforts on a continental scale. The three countries also accused ECOWAS of being instrumentalized by the great powers. Mr. Sambe disagrees. "If this were true, there would be no need for some to support other organizations to the detriment of ECOWAS, or to duplicate frameworks and mechanisms. ECOWAS certainly has its faults and shortcomings, but it is a framework for sometimes heated debate and a regulatory mechanism that should be consolidated and improved, not destroyed. This is not the concern of our international partners, who would not emerge unscathed from any chaos," says Bakary Sambe, who acknowledges that the sub-region is bearing the full brunt of the shocks of international geopolitics.

However, he is hopeful that these countries may come around, as there is a procedure for definitive withdrawal. "Withdrawal is only announced by a communiqué, which has no legal value. We need to take steps by state, and there's a whole process that will take time. A definitive withdrawal by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, founding and symbolic members of ECOWAS, will not be in anyone's interest," he says. He continues: "It's time to activate all the levers to avoid such a situation. The immediate effect is merely a publicity stunt. Diplomacy must continue its work in the little space it has left", he hopes.


Source : Le Soleil

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