ECOWAS lifts coup sanctions on Niger, urges dialogue

Sami Hegazi
3 Min Read

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted travel, commercial and economic sanctions imposed on Niger after a coup staged in the country last year, a senior official announced.

The sanctions were lifted with immediate effect, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, said after the bloc’s meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The meeting aimed to address existential threats facing the region and persuade three junta-led nations that have quit the bloc to rescind their decision.

The lifting of the sanctions on Niger was “on purely humanitarian grounds” to ease the suffering of the people, Touray told reporters. “There are targeted (individual) sanctions as well as political sanctions that remain in force,” he added.

The summit of the 15-nation regional economic bloc in Abuja came at a critical time when the 49-year-old bloc’s future was threatened by possible disintegration and a recent surge in coups fueled by discontent over the performance of elected governments whose citizens barely benefit from mineral resources.

Decisions made at the summit “must be guided by our commitment to safeguarding the constitutional order, upholding democratic principles, and promoting the social and economic wellbeing of the citizens,” Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, current chairman of ECOWAS, said at the start of the summit.

Top of the agenda was the recent decision by Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger to leave ECOWAS over “inhumane sanctions.”

That move was unprecedented since the bloc was established in 1975 and grew to become the region’s top political and economic authority.

“We must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in our member states,” Tinubu said. “I therefore urge them to reconsider the decision … and not to perceive our organization as the enemy.” The summit also reviewed the harsh sanctions imposed on Niger. This week, one of the bloc’s founding leaders and Nigeria’s former military ruler, Yakubu Gowon, urged regional leaders to lift the sanctions, noting that the bloc was “more than a coalition of states; it was a community established for the good of our people.”

In the past year, however, the bloc has struggled to resolve the region’s most pressing challenge: The Sahel, the vast, arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert that stretches across several West African countries, faces growing violence from Islamic extremists and rebels, which in turn has caused soldiers to depose elected governments.

The nine coups in West and Central Africa since 2020 followed a similar pattern, with coup leaders accusing governments of failing to provide security and good governance. Most of the coup-hit countries are also among the poorest and least developed in the world.

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