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Why Ecowas tasked the rookie president of Senegal to mediate

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By Rtd Lt Colonel Samsudeen Sarr,
former commander of the GNA

As habitual, I cannot but share my opinion on the strange development from the ECOWAS heads of state summit held in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday, July 7, 2024, where, among other pertinent issues, rookie President Bassirou Diomaye Faye of Senegal was appointed to “dialogue with the three military junta-led member states that have left the association to try and get them back and reunite the region whose stability is under threat.” Among the identified 13 heads of member states present at the meeting were President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, reelected as chairman of the organization for a second term, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo, Liberian President Joseph Boakai, and President Adama Barrow. Oddly and understandably, veteran head of state President Alassane Ouattara was absent.

In his opening address, Dr. Omar Touray, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, underscored certain noticeable achievements within the bloc but also lamented the challenges faced by the community.

It will be recalled that a day before the ECOWAS summit, the three military leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, in a defiant gesture, met in Niamey, Niger, to sign a treaty “as a step towards greater integration showing their shift away from their traditional regional and Western allies.” During the meeting, the three leaders, Colonel Assimi Goita, Captain Ibrahim Traore, and General Abdourahmane Tchiani, signed a confederation treaty aimed at strengthening a mutual defense pact they announced last year, calling it the “Alliance of Sahel States” (AES). Since forming their collaboration against the backdrop of ECOWAS and Western opposition to the emergence of their governments, they have deemed their partnership more effective in their combat against the jihadists and armed rebels strewn across the Sahel. They claim their coordination has made it more difficult for rebels to run and hide from one country to another after attacking, leading to greater successes than when they operated independently with greater reliance on foreign countries and organizations.

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According to independent observers, the three military regimes have been so successful in working together that there is little chance they will return to ECOWAS and readopt the old ways of doing things. Therefore, for President Bassirou Diomaye Faye to convince the members of the newly formed AES to abandon their commitment and return to ECOWAS is, by my assessment, a huge task with little chance of success.

We cannot forget that last year, President Faye’s predecessor, former President Macky Sall, was determined to ensure that all three military governments faced dire consequences for overthrowing their democratically elected governments. He even campaigned for a regional military force to intervene in Niger and restore the overthrown government of President Bazoum, a perceived puppet of France and the West. During that period, President Sall was also desperately trying to extend his tenure in Senegal by using all kinds of brutal force. Among his victims were leaders of the PASTEF opposition party, including President Faye, whom he unlawfully incarcerated on the flimsy accusation of sharing his political opinion on social media.

When the PASTEF party tried to draw the attention of ECOWAS to President Sall’s heavy-handed and extrajudicial activities, the bloc’s leaders acted as if it was not their business to intervene. This compelled the Senegalese people to fight harder until victory was achieved.

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However, rumors suggest that ECOWAS even wanted to elect President Faye as chairman of the community, which he declined for unknown reasons, prompting the reelection of President Tinubu.

But my major concern is why a rookie head of state like President Faye was tasked with persuading the breakaway military juntas to return to the bloc. Will the three military governments now be accepted with their positions on transitioning to civilian rule based on their own timelines and conditions, which ECOWAS has deemed unacceptable before? Given the stance of the three breakaway governments and their anti-neocolonial policies, I find it hard to believe that President Faye will succeed in this challenging mission. It seems more like setting him up for his first major international failure than relying on any special expertise he has.

All indications are that the three rebellious Sahel governments are deeply committed to decoupling from their former colonial and neocolonial ties, which are still deemed acceptable among most, if not all, other ECOWAS member states.

My final question is: What will ECOWAS do if the three breakaway military governments prefer to stay away instead of returning, which I believe will be the ultimate outcome?

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