Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, and media institutions are worried by the unfavorable political, economic, and security implications of the three West African countries. The decision of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has sparked fresh concerns among stakeholders in the West Africa region. Among the CSOs disturbed by the twist in ECOWAS’ affairs were the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC; West African Civil Society Forum, WACSOF; the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG; and ThisDay newspapers. Others include the West Africa Network for Peace building, WANEP-Nigeria, Nigeria Network of NGOs, NNNGOs, and Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA. They expressed fears at a forum titled: ‘CSOs and Media Interactive Meeting on the State of ECOWAS and Regional Integration in West Africa’ held in Lagos state.
They further called for a speedy restoration of democratic order in the affected countries, noting that the sanctions imposed on the three West African nations were no longer fashionable and should be lifted.
The Executive Director of CISLAC and Chairman TMG, Mallam Ibrahim Musa, said Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso were specific about their withdrawal in what they described as “sovereign decision,” adding that recent developments within the region were worrisome.
According to him, although the regional authority acknowledged the importance of the three aggrieved countries as an integral part of the union, the Nigerian presidency's statement putting them off as already suspended members to suggest their pull-out is inconsequential may have worsened the situation.
The TMG chairman also wondered why the activities and policies of ECOWAS were little known to citizens, thus encouraging the citizens to not only acquaint themselves with opportunities that are inherent within the bloc but also take advantage of them.
While appealing to the military administrations in the affected countries not to transform themselves into civilian presidents so as not to give the wrong notion that they set out to upstage democratically elected administrations in their countries, Musa said ECOWAS must come out decisively against rigging of elections.
He said: “Among other things, a more integrated West Africa is required to defeat the violent extremism, terrorism, and other trans-border crimes currently bedeviling the region. There is no gainsaying that the measures undertaken by the community to promote and consolidate cooperation among member states on criminal matters such as the Protocol on Mutual Assistance on Defense Matters and the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons have greatly contributed to a regional effort at combating terrorism and crimes in the region. Therefore, having a united ECOWAS is important to defeating terrorism and other organized crimes in the region.
“As civil society organizations in Nigeria and the West African region, we are resolute in working to ensure ECOWAS stays focused on promoting genuine democratization processes in the region. It is against this backdrop that this CSOs interactive meeting is holding to put out a common position which emphasizes more political, economic, and security stability for West Africa.”