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Senegal’s President Faye appears to reunite ECOWAS, a bloc break up by coups

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Senegal President Basirou Diomaye Faye. File
| Photo Credit: AP

Senegal’s President Basirou Diomaye Faye, Africa’s youngest, is immediately confronted with an enormous problem of reuniting the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a weakened regional bloc that’s older than him.

The 44-year-old Faye was tasked on July 7 with getting the navy junta-ruled Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso again to ECOWAS on the bloc’s summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

The three nations left ECOWAS and shaped an alliance after the navy takeovers fractured their relations with West African neighbours.

As a peace envoy supported by Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, Mr. Faye is seen as probably one of the best amongst heads of state for a mission to attempt to woo the three nations again to the fold of regional cooperation.

Beyond the attraction of safety and financial collaboration, ECOWAS’s goodwill has waned lately, stated Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, a analysis analyst with the West Africa-focused Centre for Democracy and Development. But the brand new position gives Mr. Faye a chance to probably search reforms for “a more sustainable and self-reliant” ECOWAS, Mr. Adekaiyaoja said.

Mr. 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, Mr. Faye’s victory in an April election that was certified as credible stood in contrast to rigged polls in the region.

At home, Mr. 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 Mr. 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 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 an “asset” for Faye

Age can be not only a quantity within the case of Mr. Faye, a former tax inspector. Even because the youngest president in Africa, he’s nonetheless older than three of the 4 present navy leaders within the area.

At Sunday’s ECOWAS assembly in Nigeria, Mr. Faye was nonetheless among the many youngest.

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

Mr. Faye’s activity to dialogue with the three international locations would nonetheless not be simple, in line with Mr. Abba, the Sahel specialist. He stated the three have wider issues concerning the operations of ECOWAS, which they are saying faces interference from overseas international locations like France, their former colonial ruler.

There can be a query of how a lot freedom Mr. Faye and the Togolese president would have of their position as envoys underneath an ECOWAS that has simply re-elected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu as its chairman.

Their success would rely upon “how best the different leaders can coordinate and agree” on the problems, Mr. Adekaiyaoja stated.

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