ECOWAS Tells Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso To Dialogue, Negotiate, Mediate To Address Concerns, Warns Of Financial, Other Implications

ECOWAS flag with member flags at the second extraordinary summit on the political situation in Burkina Faso

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has appealed to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to reconsider its withdrawal from the bloc.

The regional bloc noted this in its final communique released on Sunday on its discussion regarding the notifications given by the three countries about their decision to withdraw from ECOWAS.

The notifications were discussed at the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political, Peace and Security Situation in the region, which was held in Abuja on Saturday.

Mali, Niger Republic and Burkina Faso in January announced their withdrawal from the regional bloc over “inhumane and illegal sanctions” imposed on them following coups in the countries.

On February 15, ministers from the countries announced plans to establish a confederation called the Alliance of Sahel States.

The regional bloc “drew the attention of the three Member States to Article 91 of the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty regarding the procedures of withdrawal while urging the countries to reconsider the decision, in view of the benefits that all ECOWAS Member States and their citizens enjoy for being part of the Community”.

It expressed its “concern over the socio-economic, political, security and humanitarian impacts of the decision, particularly on the citizens of the three Member States and on the regional integration process, and further urges the three Member States to resort to dialogue, negotiation, and mediation to address their concerns”.

ECOWAS also urged the “three Member States to adhere to the provisions of the 1993 Revised Treaty, relating to withdrawal, particularly Article 91. 37 and directed the “ECOWAS Commission to sustain the Community’s rapprochement and overtures towards the three Member States and continue to remain seized of the situation”. 

It instructed the “ECOWAS Commission to engage the African Union, UEMOA, UN and other international organizations as well as bilateral partners on the issue with a view to convincing the three Member States to remain in the Community”.

The Authority directed the “ECOWAS Commission to broaden the Community outreach towards the three Member States to include traditional and religious leaders, eminent personalities, civil society and women leaders for the unity and security of the region”.

The communique reads in part, “The regional bloc also reiterated the urgent need for the ECOWAS Commission to expedite the operationalization of the Standby Force in its kinetic mode to fight against terrorism in the region, including the elements of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and the Accra Initiative, as directed by the Authority. 

“In this regard, instructs the Commission as soon as possible to convene the meeting of Ministers of Finance and Defence to propose modalities for financing and equipping the counter-terrorism force.

“Further instructs the Commission to develop an effective communication strategy in engaging Member States and the Community citizens in view of the ongoing mis/disinformation targeted at undermining ECOWAS.”

During its deliberations on the withdrawal of the three countries, the regional bloc warned that it would “have political, socio-economic, financial and institutional implications for the three countries as well as for ECOWAS as a group”.

The communique reads, “The Authority recalled that within the framework of regional cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, and organized crime, the three countries benefited from USD 100 million mobilized by UEMOA within the context of ECOWAS Plan of Action against terrorism. 

“Moreover, some Fund allocations (USD7.5 m) have been made towards supporting the three countries in acquiring equipment to help their fight against terrorism.

“The withdrawal will affect security cooperation in terms of sharing intelligence and participation in regional counter-terrorism initiatives, such as the Accra Initiative and Multinational Joint Task Force. 

“The withdrawal may also lead to diplomatic and political isolation at the international scene where the countries have obtained bloc support for their candidates and candidature in the contest for international positions within the African Union, the United Nations, and similar bodies”.

It also warned that the withdrawal “will automatically affect the immigration status of the citizens as they may be required to obtain visa to travel around the region”.

It reads, “Citizens may no longer be able to reside or set up businesses under ECOWAS arrangements and may be subject to diverse national laws. The three countries will cease to use ECOWAS passports, ECOWAS Biometric National Identity Card and the region-wide ‘ECOWAS Brown Card’ vehicle insurance. 

“The three-member states represent 17.4% of the region’s 425 million population. Even though they represent 10% of the region’s GDP, their departure will constitute a reduction of the market size of ECOWAS.

“Intra-community trade may also be disrupted, especially trade in unprocessed goods such as livestock, fish, plant, agriculture produce, mineral products and Traditional Handicraft Products as well as Industrial Products of Community Origin. 

“The Authority further notes that the three countries are beneficiaries of several regional projects and programmes, notably: The Regional Food Security Reserve (the three countries host stocks from the Regional Reserve for a quantity of nearly 17,000 tons or 52% of the regional stock); The Regional Support Program for Pastoralism in the Sahel (PRAPS – Financed by the World Bank) in the amount of USD 215 million for the 

three States.

“The Sahel Regional Irrigation Support Program (PARIS – Financed by the World Bank) in the amount of USD 103.43 million for the three States.

“The Regional Food System Resilience Support Program (FSRP funded by the World Bank) in the amount of USD 230 million for the three states.”

It noted that the withdrawal of the three Member States could result in the halt or suspension of all ECOWAS Projects/Programmes worth more than US$500 million.

“The bank’s portfolio in the three countries represents approximately 22.5 per cent of the Bank’s total portfolio in the 15 member states. The three countries contributed a total of USD 33,135,445.38 to the capital of the Bank, made up as follows: Burkina Faso – USD 13m; Mali – USD 9.5m; and Niger – USD 10.5m,” it said.

“Reviewing the implications at the institutional level, the Authority notes that the withdrawal will not only require the closure of 4 regional entities in Burkina Faso, two regional bodies in Mali and one regional office in Niger, it will also affect the job security of some 130 ECOWAS staff who are citizens of the three countries: 77 from Burkina Faso; 23 from Mali and 32 from Niger.”