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ECOWAS urges unity amid departure threats, election delays

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West Africa’s regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, issued an appeal for unity during emergency discussions on Thursday regarding the departure of three coup-affected nations from the organization.

The extraordinary session of the ECOWAS addressed President Macky Sall’s postponement of elections in Senegal, a move that raised significant concerns in the region, particularly in the wake of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger declaring their intention to exit the bloc just a week prior.

Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, implored the three nations not to withdraw, cautioning that such a decision would “exacerbate difficulties and inflict more harm on ordinary citizens.”

“We are more resilient as a unified community,” stated Tuggar, speaking to West African foreign and defense ministers gathered for the council meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

While Senegal’s ministers participated, representatives from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Guinea—suspended from ECOWAS due to recent coups—were notably absent.

ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray underscored the importance of solidarity within the bloc, emphasizing that “this is a critical moment for ECOWAS to remain cohesive.”

Following extensive private deliberations lasting over six hours, council members concluded the session without issuing a definitive statement regarding potential actions in response to the withdrawal announcement.

Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger declared their collective departure from ECOWAS the previous month, exacerbating the diplomatic dilemma for the bloc, which previously comprised 15 member states.

Despite ECOWAS’s stipulation that member countries wait a year before exiting, the three nations expressed their intention to depart immediately.

Benin’s President Patrice Talon expressed disappointment with their decision to leave, stating that it would adversely affect the people of the affected countries. Talon made these remarks during a separate press conference in Benin on Thursday.

“The decision they have taken penalises the people” he said.

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