The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso who recently announced their withdrawal from the subregional bloc to have a rethink and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation.
The Chairman of the Mediation and Security Council at the Ministerial Level and Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar while insisting that the choice of the three countries would only hurt the people, when responding to questions at the end of the sub-region extra ordinary session of the Council.
Tuggar regretted that the decision of the three Sahelian countries under military rule would only add to increase hardship to their citizens, insisting that the path of
diplomacy and dialogue remains the only route out of the quagmire.
He said: “ECOWAS is for the citizens, that is why it is called the economic community. So there’s emphasis on community. And for that reason, ECOWAS maintains the path, the avenue of dialogue, of conciliation of diplomacy and that is what has further been reaffirmed here.
“And for us, is quite cognizant of the fact that this intention of the three countries namely Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to exit ECOWAS would bring more hardship and will do more harm to the common citizens of those three countries.
“That is not good, and that is why we continue to urge those three countries to remain and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation. And ECOWAS is going to redouble its efforts towards diplomacy, towards dialogue, towards reconciliation.”
Tuggar on the implication of the decisions of the three countries to the integration process, said it was just a hiccup to the integration process of the continent, stressing that: “It’s not enough to just think that because of this development, that’s it. It means integration has been derailed, far from it.
“This is just a minor hiccup. And we’re talking about 54 countries and even with this hiccup the integration has already started and ECOWAS gone further than a lot of other parts of Africa in terms of integration. So the number of citizens from the three countries living in the rest of ECOWAS (countries), even in this building (ECOWAS headquarters) the number of people from those countries that work in ECOWAS not to talk of the continuous movement of people. The seasonal migration which takes place across the region, these are all things that you cannot just undo overnight, so you know, it takes more than pronouncements.”
He added that: “ECOWAS continues to emphasise good governance, strengthening institutions, and one of the decisions taken here was on the issue of the ECOWAS standby force to combat terrorism, the need to put it, activated as quickly as possible. As you know, the issue of terrorism presents an existential threat to all the countries in the community, including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. And it’s important to also bear in mind that ECOWAS in spite of the sanctions, has continued, during the course of this period, to render support in different forms to these countries when it comes to the issue of fighting terrorism.”
On his part, President of ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray while responding to the allegation that
ECOWAS has deviated from.the tenets of its founding fathers,said: “We have moved to ECOWAS of the people and people are asking for accountable governments, democratic governance. ECOWAS needs to reflect the aspirations of the people.
“ECOWAS is alive to the demands of the population. And I think we all agree, each and every one of us aspire to have accountable government, governments chosen by people.
“And this is why ECOWAS has revised its various instruments to reflect those demands and reflected the aspiration of the people.
” I don’t think it is the will of the people of ECOWAS to move away from democratic principles, to move away from transparency, to move away from popular participation in governance. This is what ECOWAS stands for. And we will continue to work with each and every member state of ECOWAS to promote those ideas.”
Michael Olugbode in Abuja