By Jerry Jonah
Only three days ago, leaders of the military-led States of Mali, Burkina-Faso, and Niger announced their withdrawal from its regional bloc of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The juntas accuse the ECOWAS of a shift from its founding principles, foreign influence, and neglect to population whose happiness it was to ensure, for its decisions. This is in view of the post coup posture the ECOWAS have adopted against this regimes after coming to power. In response, the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry whose capital, Abuja host the ECOWAS secretariat and whose president, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is also the Chairman of the regional body say ‘it is not an action in good faith’. And the ECOWAS say it has not been notified of this countries withdrawal.
But this is not good news. For one, the ECOWAS is not just a Political structuring, it is also an Economic and Geographical one. As such, what will this pullout mean for this States, Will it mean an isolation or a re-alliance? Again, how would this play out, would the dislocation mean a Political one and not necessarily a Economic one, or are we about to see a significant restructuring, affecting as far as geographical re-balance? If this leads to a new alliance how would it play out. Will we see a situation were this forges further north as we see in the wake of the Niger coup what we may call a sympathy support from Algeria, or, one out of the Continent itself as we see with significant growing support from Russia for both Mali and Burkina-Faso led regimes?
Whichever, this brings up a critical question, evoking deep thoughts how we may consider the outcome. For anything, it may reshape the sub-region and the ECOWAS from a mere strictly geographical identified one to a broadly political one – with alliance further North or East for the military States. There are also Economic ones(concerns), as expert argue that this will cut the 3 exiting States off its regional $702bn economy; and may put the $277.22 billion dollar trade of the Economic Community of West African States with the world in a risk, a score which it reached in its 2022 total trade, including import and export, according to a data from the regions trade information system (ECOTIS) portal.
But although this are of immense concern, there is yet another: Security: Dealing with the security challenge which the region is lurked in for decades: terrorism, violent crisis.
For another, the ECOWAS over the years through its cooperation and joint strategies have record significant success in its insurgency fight. For example, the African-led International Support Mission to Mali(AFISMA), an organized military mission of the ECOWAS to support it member nation, Mali against Islamic rebels in the Northern Mali conflict. This gains have come through regional cooperation. Intelligent gathering, information sharing, personnel support are only but a few to which this dislocation or exit or withdrawal may threaten or even drag further backwards. Although progress in the region’s fight against terrorism and violent extremist within the last two years have dwindled, yet an isolation between this groups or states do not poss a positive prospect.
How can the ECOWAS prevent this split, What can be done? Although States are free to pursue its best interest, the reality of the security situation within the region especially in the sahel present a perculiar situation. As such the ECOWAS and both parties should be open for further talks and negotiations. If the Juntas can state in clear terms what there reasons are, which may be Economic reasons or for reasons bordering on Recognition. Although I doubt the ECOWAS may consider the later, and for reasons good enough.
About The Author
Jerry O. Jonah is a Political affair analyst, Writer and Life Coach.