Africa

ECOWAS suspends Burkina Faso after military coup

New Military Leader Of Burkina Faso, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, delivers a speech in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 27, 2022, in this screengrab taken from video. REUTERS TV via REUTERS

West Africa’s main regional bloc on Friday suspended Burkina Faso from its governing bodies over this week’s military coup, diplomatic sources told Reuters on Friday.

Burkina Faso’s army overthrew President Roch Kabore on Monday, presenting the latest test to the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has struggled to mount an effective response to a series of coups in the region over the past 18 months.

It was not immediately known if ECOWAS leaders agreed to impose any other sanctions during an emergency summit held by video conference.

A delegation of ECOWAS defence chiefs will travel to Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou on Saturday, followed by a ministerial mission a few days later, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s office said in a statement.

Heads of ECOWAS member states will reconvene for another summit at a later date to discuss the findings of the two delegations, the statement said.

ECOWAS and its international allies have condemned the coup in Burkina Faso, which they fear could further destabilise a country beset by Islamist violence, but find themselves with limited leverage.

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ECOWAS sanctions on the juntas that seized power in Mali and Guinea have done little to sway their behaviour, nor did they deter the latest coup.

Pro-democracy activists say ECOWAS is suffering from a crisis of credibility, with West Africans losing faith in regional leaders they see as manipulating the democratic process and failing to alleviate poverty or contain Islamist violence. read more

In opening remarks to the summit, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, the acting ECOWAS chairman, acknowledged the organisation has work to do convincing people of the benefits of democracy.

“The happenings in the region tell us that not everybody has accepted democracy as the preferred mode of governance,” Akufo-Addo said.

HARD LINE

He added that the rest of the world was looking to ECOWAS “to be firm in this matter”.

ECOWAS imposed sanctions against Mali and Guinea following military takeovers in August 2020 and September 2021, respectively.

It significantly tightened the sanctions on Mali this month after the transitional government there went back on an earlier commitment to hold elections in February. The new restrictions included closing member states’ borders with Mali and freezing most financial transactions.

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But the hard line has arguably backfired by boosting the junta’s support at home. Protests against the sanctions drew tens of thousands into the streets.

As in Mali, Burkina Faso’s coup was in part precipitated by public frustration with insecurity caused by an insurgency by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The violence has killed thousands and displaced millions across the Sahel region in recent years. read more

The coup leader, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, said on Thursday that Burkina Faso would return to constitutional order “when the conditions are right”.

The European Union has said it would follow ECOWAS in imposing sanctions on Mali. Asked by Reuters on Friday whether it also planned to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell skirted the question.

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