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ECOWAS to Remove Sanctions on Niger ‘Soon’ After Exit from the Bloc

Although the announcement is expected to be made before Ramadan, which is scheduled to begin on March 10, Jeune Afrique reports that negotiations between the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) and the mediators of the regional organization seemed to be at a standstill.

New reports indicate that the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) may ‘soon’ lift the economic sanctions imposed on Niger after a coup by General Abdourahamane Tchiani against elected president Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023.

Although the announcement is expected to be made before Ramadan, which is scheduled to begin on March 10, Jeune Afrique reports that negotiations between the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) and the mediators of the regional organization seemed to be at a standstill.

In January this year, the three military-led West African nations –Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso– announced their immediate withdrawal from the regional bloc, accusing the Ecowas body of becoming a threat to its members. Before their exit, there had been tension between the juntas and the civilian regimes in the group. The tension seems to persist.

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To break the deadlock, the heads of state at Ecowas have decided to take the first step – reportedly preparing to remove sanctions placed on Niger – the only country still subject to such measures.

“There are still two or three recalcitrant countries that need to be reassured, but there should be no blockages,” a source close to the negotiators said.

The source further indicated that although this gesture will be seen as “an outstretched hand” to prevent Niger’s departure from Ecowas some states are still cautious with the fear that this decision will appear as a way of “giving in to blackmail”, according to a Jeune Afrique report.

“The sanctions were not imposed with the aim of lasting. They were supposed to make it possible to quickly stem the wave of coups d’état and in Niger, to restore President Mohamed Bazoum to his functions. However, it did not work, and as political leaders, it is therefore our duty to question this decision,” said another West African minister.

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Following the announcement of the withdrawal of countries from Ecowas, the presidents of the organization instructed their foreign ministers to study this issue during the extraordinary session of Ecowas, which was held on February 8 in Abuja.

As a result of the continued tension in Ecowas, the military government in Niger Republic restated its ban on flights from Nigeria, stating that flights from Nigeria would not be allowed to land in Niger.

The ban, announced by the country’s airspace management body in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) dated February 6, 2024, indicated that commercial aircraft that cross Nigerien airspace without making a landing are exempt from the prohibition.

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