Daily Review: Is ECOWAS’ Sanctions Relief Too Little, Too Late?

Daily Review: Is ECOWAS’ Sanctions Relief Too Little, Too Late?
The leaders of the ECOWAS member states pose for a group photograph after an emergency meeting to discuss the coup in Niger, in Abuja, Nigeria, July 30, 2023 (AP photo by Chinedu Asadu).

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS said this past weekend it was lifting sanctions on Niger, Mali and Guinea, just weeks after the military juntas ruling the former two states, as well as Burkina Faso, announced their intention to withdraw from the regional bloc. The sanctions, which had been imposed following military coups in all four countries, ranged from travel restrictions and border closures to frozen assets and power cuts. (France24)

Our Take

The ECOWAS sanctions were initially intended to incentivize the military governments that took power in Mali, Guinea and Niger to transition back to electoral democracy. Instead, their hard-hitting economic impact only emboldened the juntas, by fueling the existing popular grievances and resentment that helped the military seize power in the first place.

As a result, sanctions relief may be too little, too late to keep the three Sahelian states, which have already announced the formation of their own alliance, from following through on their intention to begin the yearlong withdrawal process from ECOWAS.

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