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West Africa bloc chairman: Mali coup set dangerous trend in Sahel

West African and United Nations envoys meet Burkina Faso coup leaders in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso January 31, 2022. (via Reuters)

The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says a coup in Mali has been “contagious” and led to subsequent military takeovers across the troubled region.

ECOWAS chairman Nana Akufo-Addo made the remarks on Thursday at an emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra in response to a recent spate of coups in the region.

“This summit will focus on the emerging threats in our region that stem from the military’s interference in Mali and its contagious influence in Guinea and Burkina Faso,” Akufo-Addo said.

The trend “must be contained before it devastates our whole region,” he added.

The meeting was initiated after Burkina Faso on January 24 became the third member of the 15-nation bloc to be overtaken by the military.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was deposed and detained by mutinous soldiers amid public anger at his handling of the ongoing militancy.

Burkina Faso followed Mali, where a coup in September 2020 was followed by a second in May 2021, and Guinea, where elected President Alpha Conde was deposed last September.

The developments came days after the president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, survived an attempted coup after assailants armed with machine guns and assault rifles attacked the government palace.

ECOWAS representatives were expected to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on Burkina Faso, adding to its decision to suspend Ouagadougou from the bloc.

The bloc has already slapped sanctions on Mali and Guinea for failing to restore civilian rule after the military takeovers.

But observers say the regional bloc and its Western allies have found that they have limited leverage to deter the surge in support for military leadership in West Africa's Sahel region.

Although France remains the only Western country with a significant military presence in the Sahel, France's relationship with its former African colonies has grown increasingly tense in recent months. This has led to an evident increase in anti-French sentiment.

Despite the ongoing presence of French troops in the troubled region, violent attacks against civilians and security forces are still commonplace.

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