Development news

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) faces disintegration after failed sanctions against military regimes

May 13, 2024
Ecowas Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo: De Agostini / C. Sappa / Getty Images

This is a summary of a Nordic Africa Institute Policy Note titled “Ecowas’ dilemma: Balancing principles and pragmatism” authored by Kwesi Aning and Jesper Bjarnesen and posted on the Nordic Africa Institute website.

New analysis published by Kwesi Aning and Jesper Bjarnesen in a recent Nordic Africa Institute Policy Note reflects on the ongoing crisis for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after the withdrawal of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger and the threat to Ecowas’ democratic values and role in the region.

“Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, all under military rule after a series of recent coups, have announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States, Ecowas. Having already pulled out of the G5 Sahel regional security collaboration and distanced themselves from multinational actors, their announced withdrawal signifies a further step towards political and diplomatic isolation, regionally and globally, for these three junta-led states.”

“The ongoing Ecowas crisis reflects the deepening security and humanitarian crises that have faced the subregion over the past decade. After almost 50 years of regional integration, disintegration is now a real risk. Ecowas’ failure to address the crises reinforces the perception that the organisation is weakened by poor leadership. The Ecowas crisis is not only detrimental to the organisation itself, but also has a negative impact on regional trade and security cooperation. Finally, weakened regional integration undermines the leverage of resource-constrained post-colonial states seeking genuine political and economic independence from the former colonial powers and other foreign interests.”

What should be done and by whom?

“It is important for policy and decision makers to understand the complexity of the current Ecowas crisis and the subregion’s democratic reversals. Championing Ecowas’ democratic values is key to reversing the subregion’s recent unconstitutional changes of government. Ecowas and its international partners should engage in pragmatic dialogue with the junta-led member states to promote a return to civilian rule and a fresh start for regional collaboration. They must also address the dysfunctionalities within the organisation and restore its legitimacy in the eyes of the subregion’s populace.”