Coup: ECOWAS Lifts Travel, Economic Sanctions On Niger

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted travel, commercial and economic sanctions imposed on Niger.

The lifting of the sanctions by the West African regional bloc was aimed at reversing the coup staged in the country last year. a senior official announced over the weekend.

The sanctions will be lifted with immediate effect, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray said after the bloc’s meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, that aimed to address existential threats facing the region as well as implore three junta-led nations that have quit the bloc to rescind their decision.

The lifting of the sanctions on Niger is “on purely humanitarian grounds” to ease the suffering caused as a result, Touray told reporters.

“There are targeted (individual) sanctions as well as political sanctions that remain in force,” he added.

The summit of the 15-nation regional economic bloc known as ECOWAS in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, comes at a critical time when the 49-year-old bloc’s future is threatened as it struggles with possible disintegration and a recent surge in coups fueled by discontent over the performance of elected governments whose citizens barely benefit from mineral resources.

Decisions to be made at the summit “must be guided by our commitment to safeguarding the constitutional order, upholding democratic principles, and promoting the social and economic wellbeing of the citizens,” Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, current chairman of ECOWAS, said at the start of the summit.

Top of the agenda is the recent decision by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to leave ECOWAS over “inhumane sanctions.”

That move is unprecedented since the bloc was established in 1975 and grew to become the region’s top political and economic authority.

“We must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in our member states,” Tinubu said.

“I therefore urge them to reconsider the decision … and not to perceive our organization as the enemy.”

Last week, one of the bloc’s founding leaders and Nigeria’s former military ruler, Yakubu Gowon, urged regional leaders to lift the sanctions, noting that the bloc is “more than a coalition of states (but) is a community established for the good of our people.”

In the past year, however, the bloc has struggled to resolve the region’s most pressing challenge: The Sahel, the vast, arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert that stretches across several West African countries, faces growing violence from Islamic extremists and rebels, which in turn has caused soldiers to depose elected governments.