Tensions Escalate Between ECOWAS and AES as Burkina Faso Expels French Diplomats

Burkina Faso expels 3 French diplomats, escalating tensions with former colonial ruler. Shift in regional dynamics as Sahel states form new alliance, distancing from ECOWAS and France.

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Olalekan Adigun
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Tensions Escalate Between ECOWAS and AES as Burkina Faso Expels French Diplomats

Tensions Escalate Between ECOWAS and AES as Burkina Faso Expels French Diplomats

The deteriorating relations between Burkina Faso and France have reached a new low as Burkina Faso expelled three French diplomats for alleged "subversive activities". The foreign ministry of Burkina Faso declared the three diplomats "persona non grata" and ordered them to leave the country within 48 hours. The French government has condemned the decision, stating there were no legitimate grounds for the "unfounded" allegations.

This latest incident follows a series of escalating tensions since Captain Ibrahim Traoré came to power in a coup in September 2022. Burkina Faso has taken steps to distance itself from France, its former colonial ruler, including denouncing a 1961 military agreement, suspending several French media outlets, and strengthening security relations with Russia. The country has also arrested and indicted four French officials in Ouagadougou and expelled two French nationals a year earlier.

Burkina Faso's actions are part of a broader regional shift, as it has joined with Mali and Niger, which have also cut ties with France, to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) to combat jihadist groups in the region. The three countries have also withdrawn from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), accusing the bloc of being subservient to France.

Why this matters: The growing rift between ECOWAS and the AES countries highlights the complex geopolitical dynamics in West Africa and the Sahel region. The formation of the AES and the withdrawal of member states from ECOWAS could have significant implications for regional stability, counter-terrorism efforts, and the influence of external powers like France and Russia.

ECOWAS is facing a crisis as it struggles to address the concerns of its member states and maintain its legitimacy. Following military coups in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, ECOWAS imposed sanctions, but these have largely failed to bring about the desired outcomes. The recent election of Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who has expressed understanding for the coup regimes and called for "radical changes" in ECOWAS, has further destabilized the regional bloc.

Observers warn that ECOWAS must undergo profound reforms to address the crisis and regain its legitimacy. This will require a new "pan-Africanist vision" from the region's political leaders, prioritizing democracy over economic interests. The survival of ECOWAS is seen as dependent on its ability to adapt to the changing political landscape and address the concerns of its member states.

The expulsion of the French diplomats is the latest incident in the escalating tensions between Burkina Faso and France. The French government has stated that there were no grounds for the "unfounded" allegations of subversive activities. As the three Sahel countries continue to strengthen their ties through the AES and distance themselves from ECOWAS and France, the regional dynamics in West Africa remain in flux, with the potential for further upheaval and shifts in alliances.

Key Takeaways

  • Burkina Faso expels 3 French diplomats for alleged "subversive activities".
  • Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger form the Alliance of Sahel States, distancing from ECOWAS.
  • ECOWAS faces a crisis as member states withdraw, questioning its legitimacy.
  • Expulsion of French diplomats escalates tensions between Burkina Faso and France.
  • Regional dynamics in West Africa remain in flux with potential for further upheaval.