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West African bloc finds mediator for talks with Sahel breakaways

The ECOWAS has mandated Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye as its representative to negotiate with Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has appointed Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye to engage in dialogue with the military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger with the aim of returning stability to the region after the three countries left the bloc in January. 

During its summit in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday, the West African bloc designated Faye as its envoy to initiate talks with the Sahel leaders. These nations formed a separate union, the Alliance of Sahel States (AES, Alliance des Etats du Sahel in French), and signed a confederation treaty at their inaugural summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on Saturday. 

Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS Commission, announced at the summit that Faye, who became Africa’s youngest leader and took office on April 2, “has all the qualifications required to serve as a facilitator.” 

Faye was sworn in as president after winning the nation’s presidential election earlier this year. During his inauguration, he promised radical economic reforms, sovereignty over Senegal’s key industries, and the promotion of peace in Africa.

Touray noted that “the region also faces the risks of disintegration” after the three members of the AES signed a confederation treaty. “When you leave an agreement, you are certainly not part of it. If it is about free trade, free movement of people, the risk of losing those concessions remains,” he added.  

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS re-elected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu as chairman for another year.

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Mali’s transitional president Assimi Goita (L), Niger's transitional leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani (C), and the president of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traore (R) sign the documents of the Confederation of Sahel States (AES) during their first summit in Niamey on July 6, 2024.
Sahel military governments establish confederation

The summit of the three Sahel countries was intended to further consolidate the AES union, the establishment of which was announced last September. Back then, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger signed a charter agreeing to come to each other’s aid in the event of external aggression or internal threats to their sovereignty. Mali has assumed the chairmanship of the alliance for a one-year term. 

The Sahel leaders have ruled out returning to the West African economic bloc. “Our peoples have irreversibly turned away from ECOWAS,” Nigerien leader Abdourahamane Tchiani said. 

The three countries have accused the ECOWAS of posing a threat to their sovereignty by serving as a tool for foreign powers, particularly France, with whom they have severed military ties.

July 09, 2024 at 05:42PM

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