Senegal’s Faye asked to reunite ECOWAS bloc split by coups

ABUJA, Nigeria — Senegal’s President Basirou Diomaye Faye, Africa’s youngest, is suddenly faced with a huge challenge of reuniting a weakened regional bloc that is older than him.

The 44-year-old Faye was tasked on Sunday with getting the military junta-ruled Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso back to ECOWAS at the bloc’s summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

The three nations left ECOWAS and formed their own alliance after the military takeovers fractured their relations with West African neighbours.

As a peace envoy supported by Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, Faye is seen as possibly the best among heads of state for a mission to try to woo the three nations back to the fold of regional cooperation.

Beyond the appeal of security and economic collaboration, ECOWAS’s goodwill has waned in recent years, said Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, a research analyst with the West Africa-focused Centre for Democracy and Development.

But the new role offers Faye an opportunity to possibly seek reforms for “a more sustainable and self-reliant” ECOWAS, Adekaiyaoja said.

Faye also represents the opposite of what the three military leaders claim they are against.

He had not been elected when ECOWAS, founded in 1975, imposed the severe sanctions on Niger following a coup last July. Niger cited the sanctions as one of the reasons for leaving the bloc. Also, Faye’s victory in this year’s election that was certified as credible stood in contrast to rigged polls in the region.

At home, Faye is reviewing the old ties that the junta leaders claim have stifled West Africa’s development, though Senegal remains a key ally for the West.

Under Faye’s leadership, Senegalese officials are renegotiating contracts with foreign operators in the country and, according to Finance Minister Abdourahmane Sarr, are “aiming to free ourselves from the ties of dependency in our public policies.”

It is exactly what the junta wants to hear, analysts say. Since ousting the democratic governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the generals have severed military and economic ties with traditional Western partners such as the U.S. and France, saying they had not benefited their countries. The shift has opened the window for Russia to expand its footprint in the region.

“Like the other heads of state, he (Faye) claims sovereignty and a break with the old order,” said Seidik Abba, a Sahel specialist and president of the International Center for Reflection for Studies.

Age is also not just a number in the case of Faye, a former tax inspector. Even as the youngest president in Africa, he is still older than three of the four current military leaders in the region.

At Sunday’s ECOWAS meeting in Nigeria, Faye was still among the youngest. Sitting across him was Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, who at 80 is just four years younger than Faye’s father.

When he visited Nigeria in May, the Senegalese leader touted his age as an “asset” that can help open a window for dialogue with the neighbours.

Faye’s task to dialogue with the three countries would still not be easy, according to Abba, the Sahel specialist. He said the three have wider concerns about the operations of ECOWAS, which they say faces interference from foreign countries like France, their former colonial ruler.

There is also a question of how much freedom Faye and the Togolese president would have in their role as envoys under an ECOWAS that has just reelected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu as its chairman.

Their success would depend on “how best the different leaders can coordinate and agree” on the issues, said Adekaiyaoja from the Centre for Democracy and Development.

The post Senegal’s Faye asked to reunite ECOWAS bloc split by coups appeared first on Zimbabwe News Now.

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