Bulwark Intelligence




The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West Africa’s regional bloc, announced on 25th February 2024 during a summit in Abuja, Nigeria that sanctions against Mali and Guinea would be lifted. According to ECOWAS Commission Chief Omar Alieu Touray, sanctions such as the no-fly zone, border closures, and asset freezes would be suspended “with immediate effect” on “humanitarian grounds”. This comes a day after travel, commercial and economic sanctions imposed on Niger by the regional bloc were lifted however, some targeted sanctions on some key figures remained in place. The ECOWAS leaders had met to address and resolve the political crisis in the region as well as the announcement in January by the military leaders in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali to withdraw from the regional bloc. The move has been considered a sign of appeasement as ECOWAS attempts to persuade the three junta governments not to leave the regional bloc. ECOWAS also “further urges the countries to reconsider the decision in view of the benefits that the ECOWAS member states and their citizens enjoy in the community”. Former Nigerian Head of State and founder of ECOWAS, General Yakubu Gowon Rtd had earlier called on the removal of the sanctions on the four countries and warned ECOWAS was “threatened with disunity”. Economic Sanctions and Implications In response to the military coups in the region, ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) introduced rigorous sanctions on all three countries—and Burkina Faso. ECOWAS had earlier imposed sanctions on Mali to pressure the junta to return to constitutional order, although they were lifted in 2022 after a 24-month transition to democracy and a new electoral law was proposed. Regarding Niger, ECOWAS closed its borders and put stringent conditions after soldiers detained President Mohamed Bazoum on 26th July 2023 and installed a transitional administration. The sanctions, affected open movement and trade within the region, and restricted economic and social access. The sanctions forced Niger, to cut down government spending and default on debt payments of more than $500 million. Neighbouring Nigeria also cut off power which accounted for 70% of Niger’s total electricity supply in August 2023. The bloc also banned financial transactions with its member institutions in Guinea after Colonel Mamady Doumbouya ousted President Alpha Conde in 2021. Despite this, Guinea defied border closures imposed by ECOWAS and gave the Sahel states access to its port, enabling Mali to receive grain and fertiliser from Russia. The economic sanctions had broader implications for other countries in the region. According to reports, sanctions on Niger resulted in price hikes of a range of key goods in countries like Ghana. President Tinubu, President of Nigeria and Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government acknowledged the unintended implications of the sanctions and emphasised the need “must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in four of our Member States”. Alliance des États du Sahel (Alliance of Sahel States) and ECOWAS exit In September last year, military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger formed the Alliance des États du Sahel (AES), in response to the threats of an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger after the military junta detained President Mohamed Bazoum. The resulting economic sanctions from both ECOWAS and WAEMU and tensions between juntas and ECOWAS exacerbated the geopolitical scenario, causing the AES to declare its immediate withdrawal from ECOWAS on 28th January 2024. The group also indicated that the sanctions were harming their people and also accused the bloc of being influenced by foreign governments. On the other hand, the exit of the AES from ECOWAS is projected to largely affect all ECOWAS projects and programmes worth more than $500m and $321.6m being executed by the region’s financial institutions. Additionally, the coup trend and fallout with ECOWAS increases the risk of political disorder and democracy and the spread of terrorism to the coastal states. There are also concerns that future juntas in the region would join the AES to evade ECOWAS demands to restore democracy fueling public resentment against the ECOWAS. Conclusion It is undeniable that the lifting of sanctions is a positive step in the right direction to promote dialogue between the juntas and the regional bloc. It is worth noting that the establishment of AES proved to be an effective bargaining tool in easing the sanctions on the military-led administrations and reducing pressure from ECOWAS to return to democratic rule. But the question remains, will the latest developments deter the AES from exiting from the ECOWAS regional bloc?



To penalize Russia for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the west responded with a barrage of sanctions to restrict its capability to fund the war and straiten its political and economic elite. Since the sanctions began, gas prices have soared in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world, underscoring the strategic relevance of Russia. The prices of food worldwide have reached an all-time high as it is affected by disruption in the energy and agricultural sector both of which Russia and Ukraine are integral. Amidst these troubling happenings across the world, the Russian rouble is appreciating against the Dollar in an unexpected twist. The rouble, though at the receiving end of a western boycott and an onslaught of sanctions, is rising like a phoenix from the ashes. And it has in fact been declared the World Best Performing Currency. The sanctions have backfired and have proved to be counterintuitive. A case in point is the west paying increased energy prices created by its sanctions on Russia. Some analysts posit that as long as the sanctions persist on Russia; disrupting oil supply and triggering high prices, Moscow would continue to earn more than enough to fund its war because it’s fundamentally an energy economy. The USA sold the world an optical illusion that its sanctions were going to force Russia to withdraw troops or at least bring Putin to the negotiating table cap in hand, but the prevailing reality sharply contrasts this. Russia isn’t backing down and the effect of its recalcitrance is global. It is now audible to the deaf and visible to the blind that global sanctions against a country (Russia) that controls the energy reserves of Europe were not only indicative of tunnel vision but also a bad idea. Nevertheless, the sanctions aren’t without effect in Russia, Putin himself describes the sanctions imposed by the US, EU and their allies as a ‘premeditated hit to the entire domestic economy, to the social humanitarian sphere, to every family, every citizen of Russia’. His sensationalism aside, Moscow is weathering the storm. Why is the Rouble appreciating? The Russian rouble is strengthening primarily due to oil and gas revenue. Russia demanded EU countries pay for natural gas with the rouble and countries like Germany and Italy have complied by opening rouble accounts to purchase Russian gas. Russian central bank also imposed capital controls mandating foreign firms to exchange some of their earnings for the rouble. To give the rouble firm support, Russia pegged the currency with gold as a firm backing to withstand shocks. Now, besides raising rates and forcing companies to buy roubles, Moscow limited the number of dollars that Russians could withdraw from foreign-currency bank accounts and prohibited banks from selling foreign currencies to customers. However, Russia can’t import from the west due to its sanctions. Is the Dollar Threatened? The dominance of the dollar can be traced to the fact that it’s the world’s global reserve currency (meaning it’s the currency in which most international goods are priced and which most central banks hold in their foreign reserves). The dollar is also the global currency of oil trade. Hence, the term “petrodollar”, connoting the global practice of exchanging oil for US dollars, rather than any other currency. By driving Russia into China’s camp the US is unwittingly upending the U.S. dollar-based financial system because, during the recent BRICS Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the five-member economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – plan to issue a “new global reserve currency”. In Putin words “The matter of creating the international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries is under review,” he further adds “We are ready to openly work with all fair partners,”. Additionally, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are considering joining the BRICS group. Analysts believe the BRICS move to create a reserve currency is an attempt to undermine the US dollar and the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights. The primacy of the Dollar is being challenged, only time will tell the consequences of this. Can the US balance punish Russia by not encouraging the more widespread adoption of rival currencies? What is the Endgame for the USA in this war? President Biden entered the war portraying the veneer that he did not want to make this a contest between the United States and Russia. Rather, he was exuding benevolence by helping a small country put up a spirited defence against invasion by its powerful neighbour. More than 100 days after, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin says “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,”. This explains why Biden has allocated $10.6 billion in US military aid to Ukraine since the Feb 24 invasion. The package includes surveillance drones, MRAP [mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, machine guns, rifles, ammunition and body armour. Weakening Russia is officially a policy objective of the USA. Hence, heavy funding that has contributed immensely in prolonging the conflict to the detriment of the average Ukrainian. In March, Biden said, “Confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent,”. But the actions of the US during the war reveal the downplayed reality that this is a battle for Ukraine in a proxy war between Russia and USA. Weapons shipment in billions of dollars from America to Ukraine can be traced to Washington’s military-industrial complex; an appellation that captures the collaboration between politicians, the military and industries producing platforms and weapons/defence system that allows it to maintain cutting-edge superiority over the world at the same time provide weapons and platforms to friends and allies at a cost. The military-industrial complex not just produces a weapon, it uses them to destroy societies. Russia’s Game Plan Russia has occupied and is in control of those areas of Ukraine’s territories that are rich in natural resources like oil, gas and minerals. Russia would



As previously expected by Malian citizens and international organizations, general elections in Mali are to be held in February 2022, following the 18-month transitional period that originally was meant to usher in a democracy in the country. However, the new coup that derailed Mali’s transitional process has stirred up criticism against the current interim authorities, and questions as to whether the elections will be conducted on the stipulated date or not. Mali was under an 18-month transitional period after a military coup on 18 August 2021. Another coup surfaced on 24 May 2021, 9 months after the previous coup. A military government emerged to complete a transitional process that will pave the way for general elections. Sanctions placed against Mali by international organizations are meant to be lifted when democracy is restored. After taking over power in June 2021, the interim President, Colonel Assimi Goita, assured the conduct of a free and fair election within the timeline given. The Malian prime minister, Choguel Maiga stated that an independent electoral management body will be set up as demanded by the majority of the political class and civil society. A meeting organized by the Ministry of Reconciliation, Peace and National Cohesion on 26 September 2021, resulted in the creation of a single electoral management body: the Independent Election Management Authority (AIEG). Although the transitional government was conscious about its commitment to fixing a deadline for conducting elections to restore democracy, some factors have raised doubt on the achievement of democracy in the country; the delay in publishing a detailed chronogram for general elections, and a wave of protest actions in support of the military-led government. These factors have aligned with the probable failure of the authorities in keeping their promises as expected by foreign partners and the political class. In recent weeks, the extension of the transitional period has been a major debate in the country. There have been clashes of interest and division amongst citizens, as some are in favour of the extension, while others have opposed the motion. It is believed that the extension will allow addressing the security situation in the country, as well as other structural problems in the country. The heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a meeting on Thursday, 16 September 2021, during which ECOWAS warned Malian authorities against any extension of the transition beyond the fixed 18-month. Moreover, this probable extension of the transitional period is also seen as a breach of the terms agreed in the Transition Charter freely consented to by the people following the consultations in September 2020. Many Malian political parties and groups united to oppose any attempt to extend the duration of the Transition. Subsequently, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday, 7 November 2021, during a summit in Accra, Ghana imposed individual sanctions against members of the junta in power in Mali, due to the delay in the organization of the election. These sanctions include the travel ban and the freezing of their financial assets. However, sources indicate that Mali has officially written to the incumbent president of the ECOWAS to notify him that elections will not be held on the scheduled date. This has dashed hopes of the re-establishment of civilian power in due time. ECOWAS has threatened to impose additional sanctions at a new meeting, which will be held on 12 December 2021, if the situation in Mali persists. The country remains in great turmoil as different voices are being heard. The situation may fuel a string of civil disobedience which will further worsen the country’s political state.


Abuja Regional Security Summit: Was it Helpful and What Next?

The Abuja Security Summit has just concluded, a follow up to the Paris Summit for Africa two years ago. So what next? Despite numerous counter terrorism resolutions, Africa continues to see an increase in the activities of terrorist groups and attacks across the continent. Outside of Nigeria we have seen Tunisia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast affected by the most heinous attacks, rudimentary and clumsy in execution but most effective in instilling fear and with long term security and economic implications. It is no wonder that when a regional security summit on Boko Haram was called, many saw this as just another summit to add to a repertoire of “talkshop”. An individual by the name of William Gumede recently wrote an article in the New African Magazine, about how global gatherings offer little benefit for Africa. Gumede wrote that “lots of promises of trade, development and cultural partnerships are often made at such events, with very few real benefits for Africa, except window dressing”. The author’s opinions are not far from what is seen as a lack of coordination between African countries. Despite a number of counter-terrorism summits, gatherings, policy agreements and resolutions regarding the challenge, little has been done in countering the threat of terrorism on the continent. For instance, The African Union Counter Terrorism Framework lists several efforts in preventing and combating terrorism on the continent. There’s the 1992 Resolution on Strengthening of Cooperation and Coordination among African States, the 1994 Declaration on the Code of Conduct for Inter-African Relations which rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism. There is also the 1999 OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, the 2002 AU Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, there’s the 2011 African Model Law on Counter Terrorism and so on.  The Paris Summit for Africa Unfortunately for West Africa, it took the intervention of France, to bring all the neighbouring West African countries together in order to understand that Boko Haram could not be effectively dealt with through single country solutions. The French government called the leaders of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon together in Paris on May 17, 2014, urging the need for strengthened cooperation between member states of the Lack Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Benin Republic. If the summit had anything to do with rallying the region together to defeat BH, then it has worked. The second Regional Security Summit took place two years later in Abuja on May 14, 2016. Nigeria hosted the summit this year which is apt considering that as the Nigerian Foreign Minister said, “Boko Haram threat is essentially Nigerians within Nigeria” so the country has been bearing the real brunt. There was certainly a remarkable difference since the last time the meeting held in Paris. During the last Summit, Boko Haram had its flags hoisted across 14 Local Government Areas in Sovereign Nigerian territory. This time around, the MNJTF had finally gotten its act together and had made remarkable achievements. The MNJTF commander commented that task force had liberated 4,690 hostages this year alone, ‘taken out’ 675 Boko Haram terrorists and arrested a total of 566 terrorists, destroyed 32 terrorist camps and IED making factories and seized an impressive number of vehicles, weapons and equipment.   The Abuja Security Summit The focus of this year’s summit centered more on ‘what next”. What to do with the 566 terrorists arrested this year. How to contain the humanitarian crisis of 2.2 million Nigerians internally displaced. How to handle the 450,000 displaced persons in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. How to deal with the 4.2 million people in the Lake Chad Basin region who are currently facing a food security crisis, and the 184 children per day who risk starvation in the North-East. How to find the Chibok girls that are still missing and what to do about the children in and around the Chibok community that have not attended school in about 3 years. How to stabilize the lives the returnees in liberated communities and so on. Gumede’s New African article stated that often times in these gatherings, public announcements of large sums to be invested in Africa are made, but in many cases, the money promised is simply a promise being repeated, not new money. The Abuja Summit reflected the major challenge in securing the Lake Chad Basin, and that is funds. President Buhari said that 916 million Euros was required for long term development of the Lake Chad region which will be crucial in reducing the level of poverty in the region. The MNJTF commander also stated that the force was in need of the redemption of pledges made by several international organizations in order to maintain adequate troop sustenance. The Abuja Security Summit, posed a lot of questions and highlighted a lot of upcoming issues, but it did not offer concrete answers or state how these issues are going to be tackled. The Need For Trans Regional Collaboration British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond stated that if ISIS gains a stronger foothold in Libya, the collaboration between Boko Haram and ISIS may be increased, further threatening stability in Nigeria. In late April, U.S military officials cited a weapons convoy believed to be of ISIS fighters in Libya, heading to the Lake Chad region. This is believed to be the first major sign of direct link between the two groups. But despite this revelation, President Buhari insisted during the Abuja Security Summit that there is no credible evidence that ISIS is Boko Haram’s source of weaponry stating that raided military barracks and police stations were the group’s main source of arms. But the President also said that there are links between the arms proliferation by the Fulani herdsmen and the crisis in Libya. Either way, we are left with no doubt that there is need for a solid regional or continental security summit because if left unfettered, terrorism will rescind the already fragile stability of just about every country on the continent. More African

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