ECOWAS Commission President Renews Caution on Consequences of Withdrawal from ECOWAS

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar AlieuTouray, has once again cautioned Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali against the adverse consequences of their decision to leave the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), following ECOWAS’ insistence on the return to democratic rule in these countries.

Dr. Touray renewed his caution against the three West African countries on Monday, 1 July 2024, while delivering a statement at the opening of the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament currently underway in Abuja, Nigeria.

In his statement on the decision of the three West African countries to withdraw from the regional bloc, Dr. Touray said disintegration will not only disrupt the freedom of movement and establishment of the people, but will also aggravate the insecurity of the region. 

He said the withdrawal of the three countries will deal a severe blow to the security cooperation of the region, particularly on intelligence sharing and participation in the fight against regional terrorism and other joint security initiatives such as the operationalization of the ECOWAS standby force that the member states’ defense ministers have just agreed to activate, as well as the Accra Initiative and the Multi-national Joint Taskforce of the region.

The withdrawal of the three countries, he said, can also lead to diplomatic and political isolation on the international stage because these countries will no longer be able to benefit from the bloc’s support when their citizens or candidates seek international positions within the African Union, the United Nations, and other similar bodies. He said the withdrawal will also affect travel and immigration conditions for citizens of these three countries because they will now have to apply for visas before traveling within the sub-region, and added citizens of these countries may no longer be able to reside or freely create businesses within the facilities established by ECOWAS and may be subject to various national laws.

Additionally, Dr. Touray said these three countries will have to cease using the ECOWAS passport and biometric national identity card, and the ECOWAS “Brown Card” for automobile insurance on a regional scale. Economically and financially, Dr. Touray said the withdrawal of the three-member states could lead to the cessation or suspension of all projects and programs implemented by ECOWAS in these countries which are valued at over 500 million US dollars.

“The two regional financial institutions namely the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and the West Africa Development Bank (BOAD), have significant investments in these three countries. EBID has 27 projects currently in these three countries with a total value estimated at around 321.634 million US dollars, 38.1 percent of which are public sector projects, with 61.9 percent as private sector projects,” Dr. Touray informed the regional legislature. 

He said the banking portfolios in these three countries represent approximately 22.5 percent of the total bank portfolio in the 15-member states, and they have contributed a total of 33.135 million US dollars to the bank’s capital.

Dr. Touray said the withdrawal of the three countries will result in the closure of four ECOWAS regional entities in Burkina Faso, two ECOWAS regional bodies in Mali, and one ECOWAS regional office in Niger, and cautioned that it will also affect the job security of approximately 130 ECOWAS staff citizens of the three countries distributed thus: 77 from Burkina Faso; 23 from Mali and 32 from Niger. He said these are the disastrous consequences of disintegration on the citizens who motivated the decision of the Conference of Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS and said under the leadership of President Ahmed Tinubu, they will open dialogue with the three countries to maintain the unity of ECOWAS. He said that is why the Conference of Heads of States also ordered at its last session that the representatives of the people will continue to play their role within the ECOWAS Parliament.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission said the four transitional countries were invited to send representatives to this legislature, but unfortunately, only the Republic of Guinea responded positively to this invitation.

“Inviting the transitional countries to send their representatives to the ECOWAS Parliament was one of the many measures we have taken to involve the transitional countries since the extraordinary summit on February 24, 2024,” he said.

Other measures he said include requests for hearings and invitations to participate in sectoral and consultative meetings; That though none of these openings have received a response, he and his colleagues at the commission remain determined to continue reaching out to preserve the unity of the sub-region.