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ECOWAS lifts sanctions on Niger in bid to prevent mass exodus from bloc

February 25, 2024
ECOWAS lifts sanctions on Niger in bid to prevent mass exodus from bloc
President of Nigeria and Chairman of Economic Community of West African States Commission (ECOWAS) Bola Tinubu | Reuters

Abuja, – The Economic Community of West African States () announced Saturday that it is lifting most sanctions on , a move aimed at dissuading three junta-led states from withdrawing from the 15-member bloc.

This decision comes amidst a deepening political crisis in the region, sparked by the recent military coups in Niger, , and . In January, these three junta-led states announced their intention to leave ECOWAS, raising concerns about regional fragmentation and jeopardizing the bloc's economic integration efforts.

In an attempt to bridge the divide, ECOWAS leaders lifted harsh sanctions on Niger, including border closures, asset freezes, and a suspension of commercial activity. While humanitarian concerns were cited, the move is widely seen as a gesture of appeasement to convince the three states to remain in the organization.

ECOWAS chairman acknowledged the need for a strategic rethink to address the wave of coups and democratic backsliding in the region. He urged the junta states “not to perceive our organisation as the enemy,” highlighting the economic benefits of continued membership. The bloc also reiterated its call for the release of detained leaders and the implementation of acceptable transition plans back to civilian rule.

However, the challenge remains significant. Niger's withdrawal, already enacted, has exacerbated its economic woes, forcing deep spending cuts and debt defaults. Additionally, the three states have begun collaborating under a separate alliance, raising questions about their long-term commitment to ECOWAS.

With the region's security and stability at stake, ECOWAS faces a crucial test. While lifting sanctions on Niger is a conciliatory step, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to prevent a messy disentanglement and maintain the unity of the West African bloc

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