Lift sanctions on Mali, B’Faso, Niger, Gowon urges ECOWAS

A former military head of state and one of the founding fathers of the Economic Community of West African States, Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd), has urged the authorities of the regional bloc to lift sanctions on Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic.

Gowon gave this recommendation in an open letter to the Heads of State and the ECOWAS member states on Wednesday.

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.

Members of the 15-nation bloc (excluding the four members suspended since falling under military rule – Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger), along with the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union, agreed to close all borders with Niger, suspend financial transactions and freeze the country’s assets in external banks.

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 2023.

In a joint statement, “done in Ouagadougou, Bamako and Niamey” by their military leaders, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré (Burkina Faso), Col. Assimi Goita (Mali), and Brig. Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani (Niger Republic), the three countries announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS with immediate effect.

The three countries, which are currently under military rule, said 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.”

They claimed that ECOWAS had become a threat to its member states.

Gowon, who presented the letter to the President of ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, in Abuja at a press conference, expressed concern that the pronouncement by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic to exit from ECOWAS threatens the unity of the bloc and has far-reaching implications for the ordinary citizens.

He said, “It saddens me to learn that ECOWAS is threatened with disunity following the announcement by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, three important Member States, of their intention to leave the community.

“The impact of such a decision will have far-reaching implications for the ordinary citizens who have been the major beneficiaries of regional integration.”

Gowon called on the ECOWAS authorities to immediately consider the implementation of the “lifting of all sanctions that have been imposed on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger.

He also called for the withdrawal by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger of their notices to leave ECOWAS, and the participation of all 15 ECOWAS Heads of State in a summit to discuss the future of the community.

He appealed to the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, including leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, to re-unite for peace and stability in the region.

“Therefore, on behalf of all the founding fathers of the Community and myself, I urge the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, including the leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, to put aside their differences and reunite
for the peace, stability and prosperity of our sub-region,” Gowon said.

Receiving the letter, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Touray, assured Gowon that he would send the letter to all ECOWAS Heads of State.

He said, “Your message is a profound one. I take note of your appeal and recommendations.

“An extraordinary summit has been scheduled to take place in Abuja on Saturday. The heads of state will consider your message in their discussion.”

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