ECOWAS Leaders meet in Abuja as region struggles with coups

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A file photo of ECOWAS meeting

West African leaders meet on Sunday for talks with the region in deepening crisis, after four countries fell under military rule and with risks growing from Sahel jihadist conflicts. After coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger since 2020, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc also saw member states Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau claim attempted coups in recent weeks.

A French military withdrawal from the Sahel — the region along the Sahara Desert across Africa — is increasing concerns over conflicts spreading south to Gulf of Guinea states Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast. “These military coups are not only based on fake narrative and false justifications; they are also a driver of insecurity in the region,” ECOWAS commission president Omar Touray said in a meeting before the summit.

ECOWAS leaders will meet in Nigeria’s capital Abuja for an ordinary summit where they will discuss delayed transitions back to civilian rule for Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger. Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is current chair of ECOWAS and US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee will also be at the meeting to discuss how to support Niger’s return to democratic rule and Sahel security.

Niger — a key Western partner in the fight against Sahel militants — has demanded French troops based there leave, while the US still has military personnel in the country. ECOWAS members have imposed tough economic sanctions on the military regime in Niger, whose troops ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in July.

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