African unity: The AES confederation must regain its place within ECOWAS

African unity: The AES confederation must regain its place within ECOWAS
African unity: The AES confederation must regain its place within ECOWAS

The confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States has just been born on an institutional level with governance texts awaiting adoption by the three heads of state. This was announced at a meeting held in Niamey on May 17, 2024 by the foreign ministers of Burkina, Mali and Niger. The text has not been disclosed, but one might wonder if the context behind the creation of this defense pact is still relevant today? Just as one might ask what is preventing the return of the Sahel States to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)?

After having, through their union and their determination, put their finger on the sores of ECOWAS, would the new confederation not play into the hands of the enemies of Africa by wanting to isolate itself and cultivate hatred and conflict with its neighbors of ECOWAS? Shouldn’t the energy crisis experienced in these Sahel States during the heatwave of recent months convince us of the community of destinies and the need to continue the electricity interconnection projects underway in our region and in Africa? Are we going, when we talk about sovereignty, to entrust the management of our disputes to countries foreign to the continent?

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger signed a defense pact on September 16, 2023 against the threat of military intervention by ECOWAS against the coup d’état in Niger to restore the elected and deposed president Mohamed Bazoum to power. The AES aimed to “establish an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance” and to consider “any attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties… as an aggression against the other parties » At the time of the events, the threats came from terrorist groups who roam the Sahel, crossing borders and striking by surprise wherever they want.

It is for this reason that the three coups d’état took place in Mali in 2020, in Burkina in 2022 and finally in Niger in 2023. But ECOWAS, after having negotiated with the first two the conditions of transition to a democratic regime, this time threatened to intervene militarily in Niger, which caused the uproar of the powers in Mali and Burkina, who felt concerned and would be next if they abandoned Niger.

On the eve of the end of the transition period signed by the military power in Mali with ECOWAS, the three heads of state announced in a joint press release read on television by their government spokespersons on January 28, 2024, their withdrawal from ECOWAS without delay. This is a major crisis for the regional institution which, in its 49 years of existence, has not experienced one like it. The reasons admitted by the military powers include: “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions” and another more questionable one says that ECOWAS has “become a threat to its member states and populations”.

The defense pact against terrorist groups

Today, ECOWAS has put its war saber back in its sheath, abandoned warmongering speeches to restore democracy, lifted certain sanctions and opened the borders. It can reasonably be said that the main threat to the AES comes from terrorist groups and not from its ECOWAS brethren who have returned to better feelings. Some eight months after the declaration of its creation, if the AES stopped ECOWAS’ attempts to intervene in Niger, the same cannot be said with terrorist groups. However, this alliance had and had to do a lot to influence the course of this war against terrorism which is a strong and long-lasting threat to the territorial integrity of the three countries, namely Burkina, Mali, and Niger which have lost the control of certain parts of their country. There is war in the Sahel States because of terrorist groups but not because of ECOWAS.

Closure of the border and blocking of oil shipments

We are surprised that after the lifting of sanctions by ECOWAS and the opening of borders by ECOWAS countries, Niger kept its border with Benin closed, while it opened that with Nigeria. The reason given by the Nigerien authorities for these double standards against Nigeria and Benin is that the latter would maintain French military bases on its soil where future terrorist attackers against Niger would train.

While Niger still has foreign troops on its soil such as those from the United States who are departing and those from Russia who have just arrived. Benin denies wanting harm to Niger and that it was he who requested the lifting of sanctions and the opening of borders but General Tiani hears nothing. Also Talon, to show that he has means of retaliation in hand, blocked the loading of Nigerien crude oil from the Sèmè Podji terminal.

The way of managing this dispute that the Nigerien authorities have abandoned to Chinese society is a shame for Africa. Can’t our leaders talk to each other among African brothers? Before it was France that spoke in our name, today it is China and Russia that we are abandoning our rights. What sovereignty are we talking about, if it is up to foreigners to discuss our problems and find the solution. Benin let the first boat remove the first barrels but maintains that if the border is not open, the oil will not flow between Niger and Benin either.

The election of Diomaye Faye in Senegal is a hope for change at ECOWAS

AES leaders must accept that the sanctions episode was a fault of ECOWAS and that it will not repeat it. She will not do it if she is faced with people who lead the contradictory debate. It is within ECOWAS that the three states must discuss their grievances. The ECOWAS Committee of Elders reached out to them on April 29 and 30, 2024 in Abidjan, inviting them to reconsider their request to leave “in the interest of community unity, cohesion, the interest general of their populations and regional integration”. It has escaped no one’s attention that the months of heat in the Sahel have caused many deaths this year 2024 among the elderly and babies due to extreme heat and power cuts, not to mention the illnesses of these age groups. very fragile.

There is hope to provide energy to our region if we join forces and potential, this is not the time to divide and weaken us. The new leaders of Senegal Diomaye Faye and Ousmane Sonko are potential allies who have arrived in the club of ECOWAS authorities, it is the time to rely on them to put across sovereignist and anti-colonialist views, especially since the majority of these heads of state only like democracy in name and as long as it does not concern them. Faure Eyadema, the Togolese president, has just opened the ball by revising the constitution to be able to stay in power as he wishes; perhaps he will be joined by Alassane Dramane Ouattara for another term? As Bassirou Diomaye Faye said, ECOWAS is “a formidable integration tool” that “we will benefit from preserving”. Nothing is gained by leaving an organization to rebuild a new one.

People do not gain by abandoning a nearby port to go to another 400 km further away with strong convoy security constraints. If the leaders of the juntas in power truly love Africa and Africans, they must act in their interest by taking options of peace, brotherhood, solidarity. They must not be afraid to meet Africans to defend the interests of African populations. Are they going to let hopes of double-digit growth go to waste because they don’t want to talk to a lackey of imperialism?

Sana Guy



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