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ECOWAS Will Be Weakened By Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso Defence Pact

“I think there is no exit out of this quagmire unless we go back to diplomatic solutions.”

Group Captain Sadeeq Shehu (rtd), a former spokesperson for the Nigerian Air Force, discussed critical aspects of the defence pact involving Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Shehu shared valuable insights on the implications of the pact and the broader context surrounding regional security challenges.

Shehu highlighted the potential threat posed by ECOWAS’s mention of using force in Niger as a catalyst for signing the pact. He explained, “I think what the three countries want to show is that even though ECOWAS is talking about deploying to Niger, the other two countries will also feel threatened.

“They want to demonstrate their resolve by signing this agreement, which means that an attack on one is considered an attack on the other.”

He further emphasised the need to carefully analyse the term “external aggression” and the significance of UN Security Council approval for any ECOWAS deployment.

Regarding the internal stability and security concerns of these military-led nations, Shehu pointed out that they had a preexisting Liptako-Gourma agreement, focusing on economic, agricultural, and mineral resource cooperation since 2017. He noted that the fear of ECOWAS deploying forces led to the addition of a collective defence element to the existing agreement.

Shehu also questioned why ECOWAS had chosen to intervene in the latest coup when previous coups in Mali and Burkina Faso did not prompt similar deployments.

Shehu highlighted the challenge of differential intervention practices within ECOWAS. He stressed the importance of diplomatic finesse in ensuring the unity of the 15-member bloc and preventing further fragmentation into smaller sub-regional groups. He noted,

“The more sub-regional groups you have within ECOWAS, the weaker ECOWAS will become, so there’s a lot of diplomatic dexterity that is needed, whether this deployment eventually happens or not.”

In response to how regional organisations should proceed, Shehu emphasised the need for legitimacy in international actions and the role of regional bodies in conferring that legitimacy. He urged a return to diplomatic solutions as a way out of the current crisis saying, “I think there is no exit out of this quagmire unless we go back to diplomatic solutions.” 

Regarding building resilience against political instability and curbing coups in Africa, Shehu underscored the root cause: bad governance. He urged African leaders to address issues of bad governance, reduce poverty, and provide employment opportunities to curb coups. Shehu emphasised that as long as the majority of the population remains dissatisfied with their governments, the risk of military coups will persist.

Kiki Garba

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