West Africa: Ecowas Summit to Save the Community


The Economic Community of West African States had to address the most important and far reaching crisis that it has ever confronted since its inception. Three of its member states, namely Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso threatened to leave the community.

Ecowas initially cautioned them that a country cannot automatically withdraw from the community; that it would take a year's notice before withdrawal could be effective. In the interim, an extra ordinary summit was held in Abuja to address the concerns of the three states, among others.

The steps taken by Ecowas to impose sanctions for the overthrow of governments without accepting Ecowas deadlines for a return to civilian rule had to be reviewed.

It is not clear whether the lifting of sanctions would motivate the three countries to terminate their intention to withdraw from Ecowas or even prevent Guinea from taking that route. The community has to do more than review sanctions in order to continue to be a rule based regional organisation. The protocols of the community on democracy and good governance should be binding to all signatories. When they are breached appropriate measures should be taken to ensure compliance and prevent future breaches.

The community itself needs a summit to review the agreement and its protocols and what is required to ensure full compliance. Maximum effort should be made to renew the position of all members of the community on the key agreement and protocol on good governance.

We therefore hope that this is just the beginning of the summit necessary to promote the principles of the community and safeguard them from being violated by member states.

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