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Flags of Members of the Economic Community of West Africa bloc-ECOWAS. /CFP

ECOWAS members call for unity as crunch meeting begins

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Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday called for unity as the West African regional bloc seeks to resolve political challenges facing it and the region.

The bloc convened an Extraordinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council (MSC) in the Nigerian capital Abuja. The Council will discuss the withdrawal of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali from the community as well as the political situation in Senegal.

Last month, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced their decision to withdraw from ECOWAS. The three Sahel nations accused the bloc of “being under foreign influence and betraying its founding principles”. They also claim ECOWAS is incapable of helping them fight terrorism and insecurity.

Though the bloc’s treaty states that a formal withdrawal cannot be finalized within less than one year, Mali recently declared that it will exit “without delay”.

Meanwhile, Senegal was plunged into political uncertainty on Saturday after President Macky Sall announced a postponement of elections set for February 25. Senegal’s parliament on Monday adopted a bill delaying the presidential election until December 15 this year.

In the face of these challenges, members of the bloc’s Security Council issued rallying calls for solidarity during the meeting.

Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Security Council, Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, said that ECOWAS can only tackle West Africa’s problems if all members are united.

“As a Community we are stronger together to deal with the challenges that confront us namely terrorism, climate change, unemployment, food security to name a few,” Tuggar said.

The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, expressed optimism that ECOWAS would emerge stronger despite the severity of the issues at hand. 

“If there is a time for ECOWAS to stay together, this is the time. There is no challenge that ECOWAS cannot overcome.”

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