Senegal’s new leader calls for West African unity during visit to junta-ruled Mali, B.Faso

Mali “is not totally inflexible” when it comes to its position on ECOWAS membership, Senegal’s new President Bassirou Diomaye Faye said on Thursday (30 May), as he embarked on the first leg of a journey that will take Faye also Burkina Faso, another of military-led Sahelian state.

Before leaving for his first visit to Mali and Burkina Faso, Faye said he aims to strengthen ties with these two states which have quit their membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and would try to persuade the respective junta leaders to remain in the regional bloc. The 44-year-old Senegalese leader and Africa’s youngest head of state was elected on a promise of radical change, which included effort to bring Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger back into ECOWAS. After holding talks with Mali’s leader Col. Assimi Goita in the Malian capital Bamako, Faye said: “I understand Mali’s position, which, although rigid, is not totally inflexible.”

Faye has made several trips across West Africa since being sworn as president on 2 April. “These visits are part of a drive to strengthen the historic ties of neighborliness, fraternal friendship, solidarity and multifaceted cooperation,” the Senegalese presidency said in a statement.

According to a recent analysis by the Atlantic Council, Faye started his what some hope will be “a transformative presidency” by calling upon Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, which had seceded from the ECOWAS, to return to the regional economic union. “Faye’s brand of left-wing pan-Africanism” has fueled the shift in Senegal’s diplomatic strategy, which in turn “presents an opportunity for Western countries to collaborate closely with Senegal on issues of African integration to reset and reshape relations with the countries that have distanced themselves from ECOWAS,” the analysis concludes.