Nigeria’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, has stated that Russia has a hand in Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Mali’s sudden announcement of departure from ECOWAS.
According to Akinyemi, Russia is seeking to weaken ‘western influence’ in Africa adding that he sees ‘the hand of Russia’ in what he described as a crisis that had befallen ECOWAS.
The former minister said, “I think Russia is emboldening these three countries to break up ECOWAS as part of the attempt to weaken what one will call the western influence in this part of the world. And yet, Russia has not shown that it has the capability to help these three countries to combat the jihadists, the Tuaregs, the ISIS who are running wild in the Sahel.”
He added that ECOWAS is being turned into a battle ground between Russia and the United States, as he said that it was significant that the withdrawal statement came after the U.S. Secretary of State, Blinken, left Nigeria.
The former minister said: “The reason I call it a crisis is because these three countries, in terms of landmass, that’s about half of ECOWAS. So, we’re not dealing with just a little hiccup on our hands.
“They’ve levelled charges against ECOWAS that it is being tele-guided by foreign powers. You know the power that they are referring to, and presumably, the fact that our president goes to France and he is in France at the moment kind of reinforces this fear in their minds that the ECOWAS policies are actually French policies. Number two, they say that the sanction is creating terrible economic situations for the people, whereas, they expect us to step in and help them confront the jihadists. Of course, I don’t expect us to do that when they are still under suspension. We’re going to need some clever steps, diplomatically on this matter, and I think that ECOWAS needs some fast-thinking to make sure that this situation does not get out of hand.”
He added: “They said they’re leaving immediately. ECOWAS protocol says one year, that you give one year’s notice, and that during that one year, you carry out all your responsibilities, but the guys say they’re leaving immediately. Are you going to force them to stay, or are you going to use this confused situation to bring a palliative into this situation? I don’t believe that what is happening is going to be solved easily simply because we now have this confrontation between Russia and the Western countries and NATO, we should have that at the back of our minds.”