Acoalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) yesterday urged for dialogue with aggrieved member countries to prevent the disintegration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The groups, comprising the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), made the call at a media interactive session in Lagos.

They also called for the restoration of democratic rule in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where the military took over power through coups d’etats.

The interactive session was aimed at charting a way forward to the disintegration presently ravaging the ECOWAS.

The coalition, in a communique issued at the end of the dialogue, expressed dismay at the recent announcement of withdrawal from ECOWAS by the trio of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, noting that such a threat should not be overlooked.

The groups advocated the removal of sanctions imposed on the member states which has caused hardship to the people especially women, children and other vulnerable groups.

“It is imperative to recall the commitment of member states not to attack one another through the non-aggression treaty signed in 1976. The attack may not only be in the form of military engagement.

“The leaders of ECOWAS in the interest of sustaining a peaceful, united, and prosperous economic bloc must continue to operate under the principles of mutual respect that made the region a template for best practice in fostering regional integration in Africa.

“The community must recognize the clauses that protect each member state from interference in its internal affairs. More so, in a period of growing trans-border insecurity, a more integrated ECOWAS is requisite for stemming the tides of insecurity in the region,” it said.

The communique was signed by CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the General Secretary, of WACSOF, Kop’ep Dabugat and a representative from TMG, Najaatu Mohammed.

“While CSOs continue to condemn military rule in the region rather than resorting to constitutional measures, the threat of gradual disintegration of a community which had hitherto served as best practice template for regional integration in Africa cannot be overlooked.

“It is imperative for Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, and indeed the rest of the member states of ECOWAS to have a deep reflection over the collective milestones of the regional integration, including peace missions to member states; free mobility of people, goods and services; trade enhancement through the removal of customs duties and tariffs on commodities; as well as collective infrastructural development efforts such as the West African power pool leading to the construction of Diama and Manatali dams in Senegal and Mali respectively.

“At a time when the region is advancing discussions of a single market to further boost trade and development, it is completely disheartening to see leaders shun the channel of diplomacy and dialogue and instead attempt to disintegrate the community,” it said.

The CSOs urged the affected countries to rescind their decisions to withdraw from the ECOWAS, appealing to all stakeholders to intensify engagements towards a more united region.

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