West Africa’s economic alliance, ECOWAS, promises to lift Niger’s restrictions in a bid to stop three states leaving the union, according to Reuters.

As Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso declared their desire to leave the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS leaders agreed to remove restrictions on Niger, on 24th February, in hopes that the three junta-led countries’ would change their tune.

Since August 2023, Niger has been subject to strict sanctions set in place by ECOWAS due to the military coup in July 2023. Niger, one of the world’s most impoverished states, has been plummeted into over $500 million in debt as a result. The sanctions included border closures, frozen central bank and state assets, and the immediate adjournment of commercial trade and transactions.

Although the trading bloc claims that the termination of Niger’s restrictions was for humanitarian reasons, the exit of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso would leave a substantial hole in ECOWAS’ trade/service flow, as well as the loss of $150 billion per annum.

READ: Niger: New PM confident of reaching an agreement with ECOWAS

Al Jazeera reported that the three junta ruled countries formed a military alliance – the Association of Sahel States (AES) – in September 2023 to spite ECOWAS and show objection to its “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions,” that followed as a consequence of the several military coups.

As the AES struggle to resolve conflicts with the on-going Islamist insurgents, the nature of their alignment regarding their economic, security, and political interests remains to be unclear.

As ECOWAS remains dedicated towards restoring civilian rule and constitutional order, Nigeria’s president and ECOWAS chairman, Bola Tinubu asked the AES states and Guinea “not to perceive our organisation as the enemy.”

Recently, relations have developed between Niger and ECOWAS reject, Morocco after the Moroccan King’s new Atlantic initiative – an agreement which would allow landlocked Sahel countries access to the coast via Morocco. Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad have all responded positively towards King Mohamed VI’s proposal.

Reuters/Al Jazeera


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