June 13, 2024
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ECOWAS backtracks, lifts sanctions on junta-led Niger

The West African regional bloc is lifting some sanctions imposed on Niger over last year’s coup, in a new push for dialogue following a series of political crises that have rocked the region in recent months.

A no-fly zone and border closures were among the sanctions being lifted “with immediate effect,” the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, said on Saturday.

The lifting of the sanctions is “on purely humanitarian grounds” to ease the suffering caused as a result, Touray told reporters after the bloc’s summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The summit aimed to address existential threats facing the region as well as implore three military-led nations that have quit the bloc – Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso – to rescind their decision.

The three were suspended from ECOWAS following recent coups.

Since then, they have declared their intention to permanently withdraw from the bloc, but ECOWAS has called for the three states to return.

Speaking in his opening remarks at the start of the summit, ECOWAS chairman and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said the bloc “must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in four of our Member States”, referring to the three suspended countries, as well as Guinea, which is also military-led.

Tinubu urged Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso to “reconsider the decision” and said they should “not perceive our organisation as the enemy.”

ECOWAS also said it had lifted certain sanctions on Malian individuals and on junta-led Guinea, which has not said it wants to leave the bloc but has also not committed to a timeline to return to democratic rule.

Touray said some targeted sanctions and political sanctions remained in place for Niger, without giving details.

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