A coalition of Civil Society Groups, has urged the authorities in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso to rescind their decision to withdraw their membership of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The CSOs are : Civil Society Groups (CISLAC), West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF),Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director, CISLAC, said this at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.
He also called on state and non-state actors in the region to intensify engagements toward ensuring a more united ECOWAS.
Rafsanjani said the call became imperative for both parties to dialogue to mitigate disintegration of ECOWAS and ensure speedy restoration of democratic rule in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
He said the CSOs had watched with dismay events surrounding ECOWAS and the recent withdrawal of the three members.
“CSOs will continue to condemn in totality military rule in the region rather than resorting to constitutional measures.
“The threat of gradual disintegration of a community which had hitherto served as best practice template for regional integration in Africa cannot be overlooked.
“It is imperative for Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, and indeed the rest of the member states of ECOWAS to have a deep reflection over the milestone collectively achieved through regional integration.
“These include: peace missions to member states; free mobility of people, goods and services; trade enhancement through the removal of customs duties and tariffs on commodities among others,’’ he said.
Rafsanjani said that ECOWAS states had also engaged in collective infrastructure development like the West African power pool leading to the construction of Diama and Manatali dams in Senegal and Mali.
According to him, at a time when the region is advancing discussions for a single market to further boost trade and development, it is completely disheartening to see leaders shun the channel of diplomacy and dialogue, for disintegration.
He called on the military authorities in the affected countries to roll out workable transition plans for a more integrated and stronger community of states in the region.
Rafsanjani said this would clearly reactivate the return to civil rule and quick restoration of democratic order.
“The plans should consist of a timetable of political activities leading to the conduct of elections and transmission of power, within the shortest time possible.
“The military authority in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso in the spirit of fairness, transparency, and accountability, should recuse themselves from transmuting from military to civil rulers.
“This in particularly is pertinent as failure to do so would create the impression that the only intention of the junta was to grab power for personal interest,” he said.
Rafsanjani added that the authorities should also ensure and prioritise free, fair, and credible elections capable of bringing about the choices of the people and restoring their trust in democratic processes.
He equally called on the leadership of ECOWAS and West African countries to remove the sanctions imposed on the above-mentioned countries.
“This is necessary as the sanctions have caused hardship to the people of the country especially women, children and other vulnerable groups.
“It is imperative to recall the commitment of member states not to attack one another through the non- aggression treaty signed in 1976.
“Attack may not only be in the form of military engagement,” he said.
Also speaking, Kop’ep Dabugat, General Secretary, West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), said that too much gains and investments had been made within the region, saying it was shocking for some countries to wake up one day to want to leave.
“It has great implications for the region because ECOWAS came into existence as part of a larger plan of the continent to set up blocks in Africa and to weather their challenges together.
“It will create room for foreign interferences in an era when we are talking about doing away with foreign inference.
“This is not good, the division of Africa is not something we should fold hands and watch because we want everything to return to how it used to be,” he said.
Dabugat urged ECOWAS leaders in the interest of sustaining a peaceful, united, and prosperous economic bloc, to continue to operate under the principles of mutual respect that made the region a template for best practice in fostering regional integration in Africa.
He said that the community must recognise the clauses that protected each member state from interference in its internal affairs.
“More so, in a period of growing trans-border insecurity, a more integrated ECOWAS is requisite for stemming the tides of insecurity in the region.
“CISLAC, WACSOF and TMG re-echo the instrumentality of continued dialogue and sustained civil engagements for democratic stability in the region,” he said.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Chidi Opara/Ali Baba-Inuwa