Kester Onoh, senior research fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Internal Affairs, has said that there should be ongoing negotiations to relax some of the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe occurring in the Sahel nations.
Onoh said this in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, while reacting to the exit of the Juntas from ECOWAS and the sanctions imposed on them by the West African bloc.
On Sunday, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, in a statement, announced their departure from ECOWAS, noting that it was a sovereign decision to leave the bloc without delay.
The leaders of the Sahel nations accused ECOWAS of failing to support their fight against terrorism and insecurity while imposing illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions, in their words.
Onoh said even though the sanctions imposed was a welcome development, there is need for the commencement of diplomatic moves.
“I believe that the diplomatic process is still ongoing and if we want to talk about the way ECOWAS handles the issue, we cannot just talk about the Nigerian president, considering the fact that ECOWAS is a regional bloc and it is not his personal decision but a collective decision by the regional economic bloc to impose sanctions so that such unconstitutional change of government will no longer take place in West Africa.
“If we see the wave of coups or maybe the resurgence of military coups in Africa, such a decision by the ECOWAS head of government to impose sanctions, I think is a welcome development. But I had expected that maybe after the imposition of such strict sanctions, that diplomatic moves will ensue, even if it’s not formal, it could be informal.
“I also believe that by the imposition of such sanctions, you can see that at least apart from that of Gabon, in terms of coups, since then, at least we are witnessing a peaceful atmosphere. SO, ECOWAS has done well but I expected them to follow up after such an imposition. I believe that there should be ongoing negotiations at least to relax some sanctions so that a humanitarian catastrophe will not occur in Niger”
Also reacting to the invitation of ECOWAS by the Nigeriens, he stated that the Nigeriens were within their rights to invite the regional bloc given the present situation in their country.
“Why won’t Niger invite ECOWAS? Niger is passing through a critical situation at this particular juncture of their national life. They are part and parcel of ECOWAS. ECOWAS is just a home and Niger is just an appendage of that home and if a part is suffering in the home, it is imperative that the home pay attention to that part otherwise, that part will become a problem to the entire home.”
Onoh also said that regardless of the fact that the letter from the Sahel nations stated that they were pulling out with immediate effect, they cannot leave until after a year, following the treaty they signed.
“They cannot leave immediately as they stated in their letter because they are signatory to the treaties and that’s why I said we still have a year for us to negotiate. I believe that as I am talking now, the African Union says that they are open, that ECOWAS will handle it and they are going to give them all support needed without undue interference from foreign powers.”