Breaking Up with ECOWAS

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More than 80% of African countries have experienced coups since the 1950s. The occurrence of coups can be seen as a reaction to poor governance that is unresponsive to the needs of the people. Regional and international responses to this “unconstitutional” seizure of power belittles and condescends coup leaders, hence ostracizing and condemning already fragile nations without addressing the drivers of coups. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger’s recent coups culminated with harsh sanctions from the regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). As a result, the three nations formed a mutual defense pact known as Alliance of Sahel States (AES) on September 16, 2023, then withdrew from ECOWAS on January 28, 2024. ECOWAS is accused of being a hypocritical, distant, and elitist club for privileged diplomats whose hostility to these nations drove them out.

What are the failures of ECOWAS? What lessons can ECOWAS and other regional blocs in Africa learn from this? Mvemba is joined by General Saleh Bala, retired Brigadier General from the Nigerian military and CEO White Ink Consult in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss how to understand the withdrawal of AES and where ECOWAS falls short as a regional bloc.