Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs: the coups d’état in Mali and Guinea are “really a setback for democracy”

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Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told FRANCE 24 that recent coups d’état in West Africa are undermining democracy and that events have reached a crucial turning point for the regional bloc of the Economic Community of South African States. West Africa (ECOWAS). “It’s clearly a threat, it’s an unfortunate precedent,” he said.

Onyeama pointed out that while the region was seen as a beacon of democracy on the continent, it had now retreated as such. He said the sanctions against Mali and Guinea were a first step and that individual sanctions against the leaders of the two countries were being considered. The transitional governments in place must respect a fixed deadline to restore democracy, he said: “These deadlines are sacrosanct when it comes to ECOWAS.

Nigeria’s foreign ministry urged the African Union, the UN and the EU to follow suit with similar sanctions. He stressed that the credibility of ECOWAS is at stake. He said that the presidential term extensions had considerably weakened the regimes and, in a way, opened the door to military coups. “Part of the problem is this lengthening of the mandate, these constitutional changes which in fact almost give the coup plotters a pretext,” he said.

Onyeama refuted claims that Nigeria was losing its war against BokoHaram and the local branch of the Islamic State group, saying he was confident that the challenge would ultimately be successfully met. “Almost every week a large number of Boko Haram fighters surrender,” he said. “Progress is being made there but yes, it still exists.”

Onyeama also welcomed the restitution of works of art from European countries, saying it was essential to change the perception of Africa in Europe.

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