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ECOWAS Withdraws Sanctions On Junta-Led Niger, Guinea

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As part of its efforts to find a fresh approach to deter three junta-led states from leaving the political and economic union—a move that may jeopardize regional integration—the West African regional bloc said on Saturday that it will relax the severe penalties imposed on Niger.

The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) convened to discuss the political situation in the area, which was sparked by a coup and worsened in January when junta-controlled Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, decided to leave the group of 15 countries.

Following meetings behind closed doors, ECOWAS announced that it has resolved to withdraw the sanctions against Niger, which included closing the country’s borders, freezing the country’s central bank and other assets, and stopping any business dealings immediately.

Although the action was justified as humanitarian in a communiqué, it will be viewed as an attempt by ECOWAS to curry favour with the three junta governments so they would stay in the nearly 50-year-old alliance. The untidy disentanglement from the bloc’s trade and services flows, valued at around $150 billion annually, would accompany its intended departure.

The group “further urges the countries to reconsider the decision in view of the benefits that the ECOWAS member states and their citizens enjoy in the community,” it stated.

Additionally, it announced the lifting of some sanctions against Guinea, which, like other junta governments, has not committed to a date for returning to democratic governance but has not stated that it wishes to leave ECOWAS.

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