Senegal president says Mali ‘not totally inflexible’ on ECOWAS bloc

By Thomson Reuters May 30, 2024 | 5:35 PM

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, on his first official visit to Mali on Thursday, said he raised the question of remaining in regional bloc ECOWAS with his Malian counterpart, who was “not totally inflexible” on the matter.

Mali and its neighbours Niger and Burkina Faso, all run by military juntas, announced in January they would leave ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, reversing decades of regional integration.

The three countries have formed a defence and cooperation pact known as the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) and plan to establish a confederation.

Senegal’s Faye, elected in March, has said he would try to persuade the Malian junta, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, to remain in ECOWAS.

“I spent a lot of time discussing it with the colonel,” Faye said on Malian state radio on Thursday.

“I understand the Malian position, which, although rigid, is not totally inflexible.”

He said all parties must work together to find positive means of strengthening integration, including through bilateral cooperation, but also “by trying to correct the blunders that we have noted in multilateral cooperation.”

“But we cannot resign ourselves to watching a tool for integration that was formidable in its conception, in the results it has brought us and which has been held up as an example, disintegrate without doing anything,” Faye said.

The three Sahel states formally notified the ECOWAS Commission of their decisions to leave the bloc in written notices dated Jan. 29, which according to the treaty means that they would still be bound by membership until one year from that date.

Faye also visited Burkina Faso’s junta leader Captain Ibrahim Traore in the capital Ouagadougou on Thursday.

“We also discussed the subject of ECOWAS; I understand today that the positions are somewhat fixed, but I perceive in each of these positions a window of opening that allows us to establish a thread of dialogue,” Faye said, according to the Burkinabe presidency’s communications department.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Portia Crowe; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)