President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and other West African leaders have agreed to create a regional force to intervene against jihadism and in the event of coups.
This was disclosed by Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission at a summit in Abuja, on Sunday, December 4, 2022.
According to him, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States had decided to act to “take care of our own security in the region.
They are “determined to establish a regional force that will intervene in the event of need, whether this is in the area of security, terrorism, and restoring constitutional order in member countries,” he added.
Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have all been hit by military coups in the last two years.
Several countries in the region are also suffering from the spread of jihadism, including Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and southwards to the Gulf of Guinea.
National armies, largely powerless against the jihadist forces operating across borders, have been cooperating with external actors such as the UN, France and Russia.
But Touray said this decision would “restructure our security architecture”.
The modalities of the planned regional force will be considered by defence chiefs in the second half of 2023, Touray said.
The funding of the force must also be decided, but the ECOWAS official stressed that such an operation could not be solely dependent on voluntary contributions.
Addressing another regional problem, the West African leaders told Mali’s ruling junta to release 46 Ivorian troops it has held since July.
“We ask the Malian authorities to release the Ivorian soldiers by January 1, 2023, at the latest,” said Touray, at the Abuja summit.
The Gambian diplomat said the West African bloc reserved the right to act if the soldiers were not released by January 1, 2023.