President Muhammadu Buhari says any decision to be taken by ECOWAS leaders on the political situations in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea must consider the victims of unconstitutional changes of government and the adverse consequences of isolation on them.
The President spoke on Saturday in Accra, Ghana at the 6th Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State on the political situations in the three countries.
He expressed concern that since the last Summit of ECOWAS leaders on March 25 this year, not much has been achieved in terms of having an acceptable time table for the conduct of elections to restore democratic rule in the affected countries.
He noted that although the military leadership in Burkina Faso has released President Kabore in line with the request by ECOWAS leaders , further measures must be taken to ensure his safety and full freedom.
President Buhari warned that the security situation in both Mali and Burkina Faso has reached alarming levels with incessant attacks by extremist groups on the civilian populace and military facilities, aggravating the humanitarian condition in the two countries.
‘‘The deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Mali and Burkina Faso should be a source of serious concern to us as leaders in the region. As you may be aware, the world is still recovering from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wrecked the global economy.
‘‘While our economies begin to recover, the impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine has led to a surge in prices of many commodities including foodstuffs.
‘‘We are, therefore, left with no option but to devise means of sustaining our economies by becoming more creative and evolving in finding other channels of demand and supply, in order to ensure that we cushion the effect of the war and prevent our economies from collapsing, and our people remain productive.
‘‘We must, therefore, ensure that, in whatever decision we take, we must remember the mass of the populations in the affected countries, who are victims of the unconstitutional change of government and the adverse consequences of isolation brought about,’’ he said.
To this end, the Nigerian leader called on the Authority to revisit the report presented by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the ECOWAS Mediator on Mali, on a transition timetable for the West African country.
President Buhari noted that Jonathan had recommended 16 months transitional timeframe ‘‘as well as his further personal appeal and observation to us to give the military leadership in Mali up to 18 months for the conduct of election, starting from March 2022.’’
‘‘Furthermore, Nigeria is also calling on the Authority to consider the proposal earlier made for the Chair to personally visit Bamako and present this proposal. Nigeria equally welcomes the magnanimous offer by President Macky Sall, Chair of the Assembly of African Union to accompany H.E. President Nana Addo to Bamako for the purpose.
‘‘From our findings, we are certain that the high-level visit proposed would be welcomed by the military leadership and would achieve the needed consensus. At the same time, the region must be ready to provide the needed support to Mali to return to democratic rule as soon as possible.’’
On the situation in Guinea and Burkina Faso, President Buhari expressed concern that, till date, their proposed timeframes are not in tandem with the expectations of the regional leaders as well as their respective citizens.
He urged the military authorities in Burkina Faso and Guinea to renew their determination and immediately provide acceptable timeframes for the return to democracy in their respective countries.
He announced that Nigeria fully supports any action, including imposition of further sanctions that the Authority may adopt to compel the military leaderships in the two countries to submit an acceptable electoral timetable.
‘‘Nevertheless, there is need for ECOWAS to continue to engage the military leaderships and key stakeholders in Burkina Faso and Guinea in order to reach an agreeable understanding, especially on the transition timeframes,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Chairperson of the Authority and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, thanked his counterparts for their strong commitment to democracy, peace and stability in the region and for staying focused on the situation in the countries.
President Akufo-Addo, who acknowledged the presence of African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the Summit hopes to find lasting solutions to political instability and the resurgence of coup d’états in the region since August 2020.