ECOWAS mandates Faye to discuss with Burkina, Mali and Niger


 West Africa's fractured regional bloc on Sunday urged Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye to engage with the three military-led member states to try to reunite the region whose stability has been threatened since they decided to leave the group in January.

At its summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja , the bloc - known as ECOWAS - named Mr Faye as its envoy to meet with Mali , Niger and Burkina Faso , which formed their separate union after their respective coups severed relations with their neighbours.

The terms of the dialogue were not immediately specified. The Senegalese president, who became Africa's youngest leader after his election victory in March, "has all the qualifications required to serve as a facilitator ," Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS Commission, said at the summit.

The three countries affected by the coup had already declared at their summit the day before that they had "irrevocably turned their backs on ECOWAS" . This is the first time in its nearly 50-year history that ECOWAS has lost members in this way.

Analysts see Faye's mission as important in the context of an unprecedented regional crisis . However, it is unlikely to bear fruit anytime soon because of lingering regional tensions , said Karim Manuel, a Middle East and Africa analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Mr Touray said it was the worst period the bloc had seen in years. "Our region also faces the risks of disintegration. When you leave an agreement, you are certainly not part of it. If it is about free trade, free movement of people, the risk of losing those concessions remains . "

Apart from the economic projects that ECOWAS may have to suspend in the three countries if they do not return, their withdrawal could also affect their citizens. ECOWAS, as the main political and economic authority in West Africa, offers freedom of trade and visa-free movement within member states.

The departure of the three ECOWAS countries could also affect their neighbours on different fronts. They all share borders and deadly security crises that are currently spreading across the region and against which the European Union is seeking to partner. Observers have also warned that coups in the countries could embolden other armies, particularly in countries where citizens have complained of not benefiting from their rich natural resources.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu , who was asked to continue as the bloc's president as his one-year term was coming to an end, called for new and stronger partnerships to develop the region in the face of its "enormous challenges" .

"Together, we can pave the way for a prosperous future for all of West Africa ," Mr Tinubu said.

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