The West African bloc is expected to decide whether to impose more sanctions on Burkina Faso following a military coup.
West African leaders are holding an emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra in response to a recent series of coups in the region.
Thursday’s talks were launched after Burkina Faso on January 24 became the third member of the Economic Community of 15 West African countries (ECOWAS) to be overtaken by the military.
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has been impeached amid public anger over his handling of violence by armed groups.
Burkina Faso followed Mali, where a coup in September 2020 was followed by a second in May 2021, and Guinea, where elected President Alpha Condé was overthrown last September.
Thursday’s talks also come days after Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo survived a coup attempt after assailants armed with machine guns and assault rifles attacked the presidential palace. government.
Recent unrest in the region has fueled fears among ECOWAS countries that efforts to steer West Africa towards stability and democracy are failing.
Thursday’s all-day meeting, scheduled to start at 10:00 GMT, will assess the bloc’s actions going forward.
ECOWAS President Nana Akufo-Addo told the summit’s opening that a coup in Mali had been “contagious” and had led to subsequent military takeovers in the region.
The trend “must be contained before it devastates our entire region,” Akufo-Addo said.
“This summit will focus on emerging threats in our region that stem from military interference in Mali and its contagious influence in Guinea and Burkina Faso,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmad Idris, reporting from Accra, said many countries in the ECOWAS bloc feared the coups could inspire similar actions against their governments.
“The question on everyone’s lips is: what are West African leaders going to do to prevent these attempts from happening again in the region?” he said.
ECOWAS representatives are expected to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on Burkina Faso, in addition to its decision to suspend Ouagadougou from the 15-nation bloc. The African Union (AU) has also suspended Burkina Faso from its Peace and Security Council.
The bloc imposed sanctions on Mali and Guinea for failing to restore civilian rule after military coups. Additional measures have included border closures by ECOWAS members, an embargo on trade and financial transactions as well as targeted sanctions against individuals.
Talks in Burkina Faso
The emergency meeting comes after an ECOWAS diplomatic mission headed by Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey met with Burkina’s military leaders in Ouagadougou on Monday.
“They seemed very open to suggestions and proposals that we were making. For us, this is a good sign,” Botchwey told reporters after meeting Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and other members of the military government.
The delegation met ousted President Kaboré, who appeared to be in “good health”, according to Botchwey.
The ECOWAS delegation was joined by the UN Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who described a “very frank exchange”.
On Monday, Burkina Faso’s military government said it had restored the constitution, which it quickly suspended after the coup, and named Damiba president and head of the armed forces for a transitional period.
Damiba met with political party leaders on Tuesday, many of whom said they wanted to help restore civilian rule.
While the military government has pledged to restore “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”, questions remain about the date of the elections.
Burkina Faso and Mali are in the throes of a nearly decade-old uprising by armed groups that has claimed thousands of lives and forced at least one and a half million people from their homes.
Political friction between ECOWAS and the military in Mali has brought Bamako closer to Russia and cast a shadow over France’s mission in the country to fight armed groups.