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Bolaji Akinyemi: Russia Is Emboldening Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso To Weaken ‘Western Influence’ In Africa

“ECOWAS is being turned into a confrontational field between Russia and the United States.”

Nigeria’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bolaji Akinyemi, has said that Russia has a hand in the Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Mali’s sudden announcement of departure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as Russia is seeking to weaken ‘western influence’ in Africa.

Akinyemi also said praised the verdict of the International Court of Justice in the Genocide case that South Africa brought against Israel and congratulated South Africa for showing the best of humanity by supporting the rights of the Palestinians.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Monday, while discussing the sudden announcement from the military run West African countries that they will be leaving the West African bloc immediately, Akinyemi said that he sees ‘the hand of Russia’ in what he described as a crisis that had befallen ECOWAS.

The former minister said, “I think Russia is emboldening these three countries to break up ECOWAS as part of the attempt to weaken what one will call the western influence in this part of the world. And yet, Russia has not shown that it has the capability to help these three countries to combat the jihadists, the Tuaregs, the ISIS who are running wild in the Sahel.”

Akinyemi said that ECOWAS is being turned into a ‘confrontational field between Russia and the United States,’ as he said that it was significant that the withdrawal statement came after the US Secretary of State, Blinken, left Nigeria.

He said, “The reason I call it a crisis is because these three countries, in terms of landmass, that’s about half of ECOWAS. So, we’re not dealing with just a little hiccup on our hands.”

Speaking on the reasons the nations gave for their exit, Akinyemi said, “They’ve levelled charges against ECOWAS that are being teleguided, when I say we, let me say ECOWAS is being teleguided by foreign powers. You know the power that they are referring to, and presumably, the fact that our president goes to France and he is in France at the moment kind of reinforces this fear in their minds that the ECOWAS policies are actually French policies.

“Number two, they say that the sanction is creating terrible economic situations for the people, whereas, they expect us to step in and help them confront the jihadists. Of course I don’t expect us to do that when they are still under suspension. We’re going to need some clever steps, diplomatically on this matter, and I think that ECOWAS needs some fast thinking to make sure that this situation does not get out of hand.”

Akinyemi further said, “They said they’re leaving immediately. ECOWAS protocol says one year, that you give one year’s notice, and that during that one year, you carry out all your responsibilities, but the guys say they’re leaving immediately. Are you going to force them to stay, or are you going to use this confused situation to bring a palliative into this situation? I don’t believe that what is happening is going to be solved easily simply because we now have this confrontation between Russia and the Western countries and NATO, we should have that at the back of our minds.”

Speaking on the role that Nigeria has to play in resolving this crisis as he called it, he said, “Nigeria does not have a hostile relationship with Russia, therefore, there has to be some tough talking between the ministry of foreign affairs and Russia about this. The ambassador should be called in, and to say what? To say Nigeria, sharing a common border with Niger, does not want a topsy-turvy diplomatic situation. We don’t want to be a victim of a confrontation going on between Russia and NATO, and that we see the hand of Russia in these people leaving, and that we are going to hold Russia responsible for bringing them back in.”

The former minister then praised the ICJs verdict in the genocide case against Israel as he said, “This was an extremely clever judgement by the International Court of Justice, and I wasn’t expecting anything less.”

He also hailed South Africa’s movement to protect the rights of the Palestinians in the ongoing war as he said, “I have praised South Africa, and I called what South Africa has done as the ‘Mandelization’ of the global role of South Africa. It didn’t matter whether it was only South Africa that took the bull by the horns. Fortunately, about a hundred and fifty something countries supported South Africa, but South Africa was the one that stuck its neck out.

“And we should congratulate South Africa for that. The Gaza war has shown the worst of us. What South Africa has done has shown at least the best in humanity, that someone was still prepared to stand up and try to defend the rights of the Palestinians, not Hamas, the Palestinians. I congratulate South Africa. South Africa should take credit, Africa should take credit, humanity should take credit for what South Africa has done, and I think that it is a victory for South Africa that the court ruled that it has jurisdiction.”

Although the ICJ did not order Israel to call for a ceasefire in the war against Hamas, Akinyemi said, “The court explicitly accepted the act that you have the right of self defence. In other words, that there could be a case for a justified war. So, to that extent, they’re not going to call for a ceasefire. On the other hand, as the South African Foreign Minister said, the other orders that they called upon Israel to do implied that at least you will scale down the volume of the war in order to allow humanitarian things to go in.

“We also should recall, and people don’t tend to talk about this. The court called on Hamas to release the hostages that they are holding. So, while I don’t see Israel abiding fully, I will emphasize that word ‘fully’, by the orders- those orders are interlocutory by the way, that’s not the final say of the court. The final say of the court is probably going to be in three years, it may even be in five years’ time.

“People don’t seem to have listened to the language of Netanyahu. For the first time, I think he piped down. The first sentence in his reaction to the court is Israel abides and will abide by international law. During the whole of this war, that will be the first time that I will hear a categorical declaration by Netanyahu, he did say that. He then of course said Israel has a right to defend itself. Hamas said they are prepared to abide by the ruling of the court on release of hostages provided, so it was not going to be- if you like, an acceptance of the ruling. It has become provisional- if Israel does this and Israel does that.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi