It is tragic to see how the Sahel States are once again becoming a geopolitical football.

Three African statesmen stand side by side.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, ECOWAS President Omar Alieu Touray and Nigerian Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar. Photo: Stringer/Reuters

Niger has once again demonstrated the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Since the July 2023 coup, Abdourahamane Tiani's junta has done nothing to prepare for the presidential elections as requested or at least to begin the path towards them. Instead, he persevered and achieved another success: sanctions were relaxed. This should make Niger as happy as its southern neighbor, Benin. Goods have not been transported to Niger through the port of Cotonou for almost seven months. The local economy in the north was also affected by the border closures.

It is an important gesture of appeasement on the part of ECOWAS to keep Niger, but also Mali and Burkina Faso, in the federation. At the end of January they announced their departure. But with their negative attitude towards the talks, the three countries highlight both a lack of interest and self-confidence. Without interference from ECOWAS and therefore also from the global North (at least that is assumed), the three countries will be better off in the future, they estimate.

The beneficiary is Russia, which not only announced military cooperation but, according to media reports, recently supplied Burkina Faso with 25,000 tons of wheat and opened an embassy in the capital Ouagadougou at the end of December after 31 years.

It is almost tragic to see how the Sahel states are once again becoming a geopolitical football. Russian cooperation does not improve living conditions in the world's poorest countries, where access to food, education and healthcare continues to deteriorate. Countries have sought raw materials such as uranium and gold. Above all, Russia is managing to build a strategically important network. Therefore, the lifting of sanctions against Niger, without the country moving towards a presidential election or the release of deposed president Mohamed Bazoum, is also a victory for Russia.

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