The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a group of 15 countries in West Africa that work together in politics and business. ECOWAS is made up of the ECOWAS Commission, the Community Court of Justice, the Community Parliament, the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), the West African Health Organization (WAHO), and the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in West Africa (GIABA). The ECOWAS works in French, English, and Portuguese, all official languages. In French, it is referred to as the Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, and in Portuguese, it is called Comunidade Económica dos Estados da África Ocidental. They both use the same abbreviation, which is CEDEAO.
ECOWAS is one of the leading regional groups of the African Economic Community (AEC), which covers the whole continent. Its goal is to help its member states reach “collective self-sufficiency” by creating a single large trade bloc and a full economic and trading union. With the signing of the Treaty of Lagos on May 28, 1975, the union was created, and its goal was to make the region’s economies work better together. On July 24, 1993, people in Cotonou agreed on and signed a new version of the treaty. The ECOWAS is also a peacekeeping force in the region. When political instability or unrest occurs in one of the bloc’s member countries, member states sometimes send joint military forces to help.
As of February 2017, there are 15 member states of ECOWAS. Eight speak French, five speak English, and two speak Portuguese. Except for Cape Verde, who joined in 1977, all of the current members joined as founding members in May 1975. The only country that used to be a part of ECOWAS but is no longer is Arabic-speaking Mauritania. It was one of the founding members in 1975 and left in December 2000. In August 2017, Mauritania signed a new agreement to become an associate member. In February 2017, Morocco officially asked to join the ECOWAS. At a meeting of heads of state in June 2017, the application was approved in principle, but Morocco’s bid to join was put on hold.
Mali was kicked out of ECOWAS on May 30, 2021, after its second military coup in less than a year; Guinea was also taken off the list on September 8, 2021, after a military coup there. Both countries were hit with sanctions on September 16. Mali said on January 10, 2022, that it would close its borders and call back several ECOWAS ambassadors in response to sanctions for putting off elections for four years. A military coup in Burkina Faso on January 28, 2022, led to the country being kicked out of ECOWAS.
Past and Present ECOWAS Chairmen
Yakubu Gowon (1975–1975)
Yakubu Gowon is a former Nigerian military general. He presided over the Nigerian Civil War as head of state and gave the “no victor, no vanquished” address to promote healing and peace. Some accuse Yakubu Gowon of crimes against humanity and genocide during the Nigerian Civil War. He says he did nothing wrong during the war and saved the country. Gowon, a Nigerian nationalist and an Anglican Christian, comes from a minority Ngas family in Northern Nigeria; he is a firm believer in Nigeria’s oneness and togetherness. Yakubu Gowon’s ascent to power in July 1966 solidified military control in Nigeria. He was Nigeria’s longest-serving head of state, governing for nearly nine years until Brigadier Murtala Mohammed overthrew him in 1975. Yakubu Gowon served as Ecowas chairman until July 29 1975.
Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1975–1977)
Gnassingbé Eyadéma was Togo’s president from 1967 until 2005. His son, Faure Gnassingbé, replaced him. Eyadéma came into office in April 1967 after two successful military coups in 1963 and 1967. As president, he formed the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) and led an anti-communist single-party state until the early 1990s. His leadership was challenged in the early 1990s, but he consolidated power and won multiparty presidential elections in 1993, 1998, and 2003. The opposition boycotted the 1993 election and regarded the 1998 and 2003 results as illegitimate. Eyadéma was Africa’s longest-ruler when he died. He was Ecowas chairman from 1975 until 1977.
Olusegun Obasanjo (1977–1979)
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is a prominent figure in Nigerian politics and the military. He led the country from 1976 to 1979 and from 1999 to 2007. From September 13, 1977, to September 30, 1979, Olusegun Obasanjo presided over Ecowas as its chairman. Politically active since 1999, he joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before switching to the African Democratic Congress in 2018. (ADC).
Léopold Sédar Senghor (1979–1980)
Léopold Sédar Senghor was a poet, politician, and cultural theorist from Senegal. Senghor created an authoritarian single-party state in Senegal; he founded the Senegalese Democratic Bloc. He was the country’s first president (1960–80). He parted with Senegal’s Prime Minister Mamadou Dia and imprisoned him for 12 years on charges of inciting a coup. Senghor was the first African member of the French Academy. He earned Italy’s 1985 Nonino Prize. He’s considered one of the 20th century’s most influential African intellectuals. Léopold Sédar Senghor was chairman of Ecowas from September 30, 1979, to December 31, 1980.
Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1980–1981)
Gnassingbé Eyadéma, a former and lengthy leader of Togo, served as chairman of Ecowas for a second time from 1980 to 1981.
Siaka Stevens (1981–1982)
Siaka Probyn Stevens led Sierra Leone from 1967 to 1985 as prime minister and president. Stevens consolidated authority by corruption and exploitation, exhibiting patrimonial control and self-indulgence. Stevens and his All People’s Congress (APC) defeated Sir Albert Margai of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in 1967. Stevens established Sierra Leone as a republic in April 1971 and became president the next day. Technically, he was the second president of Sierra Leone after Christopher Okoro Cole, a judge who resigned, making room for Stevens. Stevens led the OAU from July 1, 1980, to June 24, 1981, and created the Mano River Union, a three-country economic union. Stevens retired in 1985. After forcing possible successors to stand down, he chose Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh as his successor. Between 1981 and 1982, Siaka Probyn Stevens was the chairman of Ecowas. He passed away in Freetown on May 29, 1988.
Mathieu Kérékou (1982–1983)
Mathieu Kérékou was a politician from Benin who served as President of Benin twice during the country’s history, from 1972 to 1991 and then from 1996 until 2006. Between the years 1982 and 1983, he served as chairman of Ecowas. After taking control of the government in a military putsch, he ruled the country for the next 19 years, most of which were spent openly adhering to a Marxist–Leninist philosophy. The National Conference of 1990 was the body that finally removed him from office. He was unsuccessful in his bid for president in the election held in 1991. Still, he won the presidency again in the election held in 1996 and was controversially re-elected in the election held in 2001.
Ahmed Sékou Touré (1983–1984)
Ahmed Sékou Touré was the first president of Guinea from 1958 until he died in 1984. He was a political leader and statesman from Guinea. He died in 1984. Touré was a prominent figure among Guinean nationalists who fought for their country’s independence from France. Sékou Touré, a devoted Mandinka Muslim, was the great-grandson of the influential Mandinka Muslim priest Samori Ture, who established independent Islamic governance in West Africa. He became a virtual dictator after declaring his Democratic Party of Guinea (Parti démocratique de Guinée, PDG) the only legitimate party in the state in 1960. Without any legitimate challengers, he was re-elected for four additional terms of seven years each. Many people were slain during his reign, some in the infamous Camp Boiro. From 1983 to 1984, he presided as chairman of Ecowas.
Lansana Conté (1984–1985)
Lansana Conté was Guinea’s second president from April 3, 1984, to December 22 2008. Guinea’s 1984 coup d’état brought Conté to power. Guinea’s first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, died in 1984. Prime Minister Louis Lansana Beavogui was named interim president pending elections in 45 days. On April 3, hours before the PDG planned to choose a new leader, Conté spearheaded a military coup that ousted the government. Conté decried Touré’s human rights violations and freed 250 political prisoners. 200,000 Guineans in exile were invited to return, and Camp Boiro was closed. Soldiers loyal to Conté, who was attending an ECOWAS conference in Lomé, Togo, repelled a coup d’état on July 4 1985. Conté, a Susu (or Sousou) man, killed rival Malinké soldiers, including former PM Diarra Traoré. From 1984–1985, he led Ecowas as its chairman.
Muhammadu Buhari (1985–1985)
Muhammadu Buhari is a Nigerian politician who has served as president since 2015. Buhari, a former major general in the Nigerian Army, led the country as its military leader from December 31, 1983, until August 27 1985. The name “Buharism” describes the autocratic practices of his military dictatorship. In 2003, 2007, and 2011, Buhari ran for president of Nigeria; he became the APC’s 2015 presidential candidate in December 2014. Buhari defeated incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It was the first time an incumbent president had ever lost an election in Nigeria. He took office on May 29. Buhari was re-elected in February 2019 with a margin of more than 3 million votes over his nearest competitor, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He led Ecowas from 1985 until he was ousted in a coup on August 27 1985.
Ibrahim Babangida (1985–1989)
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida is a Nigerian politician and retired army general. Between the years 1985 to 1993, he held the position of military president of Nigeria. He resigned in 1993. After rising through the ranks, he served as Chief of Army Staff from 1984 to 1985; he then plotted a palace coup d’état to overthrow Muhammadu Buhari for Head of State. After successfully removing Buhari from power on August 27, 1985, he served as chairman of Ecowas from that point until 1989.
Dawda Jawara (1989–1990)
Lord Kairaba Jawara was Gambian Prime Minister from 1962 to 1970 and President from 1970 to 1994. In 1960, he was elected to the House of Representatives as secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). In 1962, he became the PPP’s leader and the country’s first Prime Minister after Pierre Sarr N’Jie. The Gambia obtained independence under Jawara in 1965. He remained prime minister while Elizabeth II stayed queen. Jawara was elected as The Gambia’s first president after it became a republic in 1970. The largest challenge to Jawara’s leadership was an attempted coup d’état in 1981, which resulted in 400 to 800 deaths. Jawara and Senegalese President Abdou Diouf created the Senegambia Confederation after the coup attempt, but it dissolved in 1989. Yahya Jammeh’s coup d’état in 1994 toppled Jawara. He went into exile, returned in 2002, and died in The Gambia. In the years 1989 and 1990, he presided over Ecowas as chairman.
Blaise Compaoré (1990–1991)
Blaise Compaoré, a dual citizen of Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, was the country’s second president from 1987 to 2014. The first president, Thomas Sankara, was a close friend of his during the 1980s, and in October 1987, he orchestrated a coup d’état in which Sankara was assassinated. After that, he instituted a ‘rectification’ programme, which effectively reversed Sankara’s leftist and Third Worldist initiatives. To many, his four election victories (in 1991, 1998, 2005, and 2010) were obtained by fundamentally flawed means. The 2014 Burkinabé revolt was precipitated by his attempt to change the constitution to extend his 27-year stay in office. Compaoré resigned on October 31, 2014, before escaping to the Ivory Coast. Between the years 1990 and 1991, he presided over Ecowas.
Dawda Jawara (1991–1992)
The former leader of the Gambia, Dawda Jawara, served as the chairman of Ecowas once more between 1991 and 1992.
Abdou Diouf (1992–1993)
Abdou Diouf is a Senegalese politician who served as the country’s second President of Senegal from 1981 until his term ended in 2000. His presidency spanned the years 1981–2000. Diouf is famous for several reasons, including the peaceful way he assumed power and his willingness to step down after losing the presidential election to Abdoulaye Wade in 2000. In addition to this, he served as the second Secretary-General of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) from January 2003 to December 2014. Additionally, he was the chairman of Ecowas from 1992 to 1993.
Nicéphore Soglo (1993–1994)
Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo is a politician from Benin. He served as the country’s prime minister in 1990 and 1991, then president from 1991 to 1996. From 2003 until 2015, he served as the mayor of Cotonou. In his time as president, Soglo worked to restore Benin’s economy after a severe decline. As a result of these economic policies, civil unrest erupted, and his popularity plummeted. Despite these setbacks, his administration has been applauded for upholding democratic values and protecting human rights. In the March 1996 presidential election, Soglo won the first round again, but Mathieu Kérékou defeated him in the second. Soglo claimed vote-tampering, but the Constitutional Court ruled against him. Between 1993 and 1994, he presided over Ecowas as its chairman.
Jerry Rawlings (1994–1996)
Jerry John Rawlings led Ghana in 1979 and 1981-2001. He commanded a military junta until 1992, then was elected president twice. Rawlings rose to power in Ghana as a flying lieutenant in a 1979 coup. Before that, he spearheaded a failed coup against the military administration on May 15 1979, five weeks before the elections. After ceding power to a civilian government, he regained authority on December 31, 1981, as chairman of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). In 1992, Rawlings resigned from the military, created the NDC, and became the fourth president. He won four more years in 1996. From 1994 until July 27 1996, he presided over Ecowas in the role of chairman. Rawlings endorsed vice-president John Atta Mills for president in 2000 after serving two terms. Rawlings was the AU envoy to Somalia.
Sani Abacha (1996–1998)
Sani Abacha was a military officer and politician from Nigeria. From 1985 to 1990, he served as Chief of Army Staff, and from 1990 to 1993, he served as Chief of Defence Staff and Minister of Defense. From 1993 until 1998, he ran the country as the military head of state. On November 17, 1993, he staged the last successful military coup in Nigeria’s history and assumed control. Without ever having to skip a rung in the ranks, Abacha made history by becoming the first officer in the Nigerian Army to reach the position of full general. Some economic achievements were made under his reign, but human rights abuses were documented, and several political figures were killed. Various contemporary pundits have labelled him a kleptocrat and a despot. From July 27, 1996, until his death on June 8, 1998, he presided over Ecowas as its chairman.
Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999)
Abdulsalami Abubakar was Nigeria’s de facto president from 1998 to 1999.; he was Chief of Defence Staff in 1997 and 1998. He succeeded General Sani Abacha following his death. Nigeria adopted a multiparty constitution under his leadership. In May 1999, he handed power to Olusegun Obasanjo. He’s the National Peace Committee Chairman. Since Muhammadu Buhari’s 1983 coup, military authorities have ruled Nigeria. Ibrahim Babangida nullified 1993’s democratic elections. Abubakar was sworn in as president on June 9, 1998, after Abacha’s death. A week of national mourning was established. In May 1999, General Abubakar retired from the army and handed control to the newly elected civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. He was Ecowas chairman from June 9, 1998, to 1999, after Sani Abacha’s death.
Gnassingbé Eyadéma (1999)
In 1999, President Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo presided over Ecowas for a record third time.
Alpha Oumar Konaré (1999–2001)
Alpha Oumar Konaré was president of Mali from 1992 to 2002 and chair of the African Union Commission from 2003 to 2008. He was elected Mali’s first president in 1992, defeating US-RDA contender Tiéoulé Mamadou Konaté. Despite a ballot boycott in protest of his annulment of parliamentary elections, he was re-elected in 1997 and sworn in on June 8 1997. His periods are noteworthy for restoring democracy despite 1997’s challenges, managing the Tuareg Rebellion, and decentralising the administration. Corruption remained a problem under Konaré’s presidency. Konaré departed the government in 2002 and was succeeded by Amadou Toumani Touré. He’s the only Malian head of state to step down at the end of his mandate. At a session in Maputo on July 10 2003, he was elected AU Commission chairman. He served as chairman of Ecowas from 1999 until December 21 2001.
Abdoulaye Wade (2001–2003)
Abdoulaye Wade is a politician from Senegal who served as the country’s president from 2000 until 2012. He has also been the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) since 1974 and currently holds the position of Secretary-General of the PDS. Beginning in 1978, he made four separate presidential campaigns before finally succeeding in his bid in 2000. Between December 21 2001, and January 31 2003, he presided over Ecowas as chairman. In 2007, he was re-elected with a majority of the vote in the first round; however, in 2012, he was unsuccessful in his contentious campaign for a third term.
John Kufuor (2003–2005)
John Kufuor is a politician from Ghana. From January 7, 2001, to January 7, 2009, he was the President of Ghana. From 2007 to 2008, he presided over the African Union as its chairman. Kufuor has spent his entire political career with the United Gold Coast Convention and United Party’s offspring, the liberal-democratic parties of Ghana. He practised law and ran a successful business before serving as a minister in Ghana’s Second Republic under Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party and as a leader in the Third Republic’s Popular Front Party opposition. Kufuor was the candidate for the New Patriotic Party in the 1996 election, leading the party to victory in the 2000 and 2004 elections during the Fourth Republic. After holding the presidency for two terms, he stepped down in 2008. He is often called “the Gentle Giant.” From January 31, 2003, to January 19, 2005, he presided over Ecowas as its chairman.
Mamadou Tandja (2005-2007)
Mamadou Tandja, a politician from Niger, served as the country’s leader from 1999 until 2010. He served as President of the National Movement for the Development Society (MNSD) from 1991 to 1999 after serving as its candidate and failing to win in 1993 and 1996. He led the Economic Community of West African States as its chairman from 2005 to 2007 while serving as President of Niger. Tandja’s ancestry included Fula as well as Soninke. In his position as President of Niger, he made history by being the country’s first leader from a background other than Hausa or Djerma. Tandja’s attempts to stay in office until the end of his term sparked a constitutional crisis in 2009, and on February 18 2010, the military staged a coup d’état to remove him from power.
Blaise Compaoré (2007-2008)
Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaoré once again presided over Ecowas as chairman from January 19, 2007, till December 19, 2008.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2008-2010)
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a Nigerian politician, served as the country’s president from 2007 until 2010. After winning the Nigerian presidential election on April 21, 2007, he took office on May 29, 2007. He was the governor of Katsina state from 1999 to 2007 and a leader in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Yar’Adua went to Saudi Arabia in 2009 to be treated for pericarditis. On February 24, 2010, he moved back to Nigeria, where he passed away on May 5. From December 19, 2008, until his passing on February 18, 2010, he presided over Ecowas as its chairman.
Goodluck Jonathan (2010–2012)
Goodluck Jonathan is a politician from Nigeria who led the country as president from 2010 to 2015. He became the first incumbent president in Nigerian history to concede defeat in an election after losing to the former military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. Before that, he was governor of oil-rich Bayelsa State from 2005 to 2007 and Vice President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010 under Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. After his predecessor passed away on February 18, 2010, he became president of Ecowas and remained in office until February 17, 2012.
Alassane Ouattara (2012-2013)
Alassane Dramane Ouattara is a political figure in Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) who has been president since 2010. Ouattara worked for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). He was the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire from November 1990 until December 1993. In 1999, Ouattara was elected as the president of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), an Ivorian political party. Between February 17, 2012, to February 17, 2013, he presided over Ecowas as its chairman.
John Mahama (2013-2015)
John Dramani Mahama was Ghana’s president from 2012 to 2017. He’s a writer, historian, and communication guru. He was the Member of Parliament for Bole Bamboi from 1997 to 2009 and the Minister for Communications from 1998 to 2001. He was a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Mahama is the first vice president to succeed his predecessor, John Evans Atta Mills and the first Ghanaian president born after independence; he was Ghana’s vice president from 2009 to 2012 and became president after John Evans Fiifi Attah Mills’ death. He was elected president in December 2012. He ran for a second term in 2016 but lost to Nana Akufo-Addo. This made him the first Ghanaian president to lose reelection. His tenure as chairman of Ecowa lasted from February 17, 2013, until May 19, 2015.
Macky Sall (2015–2016)
Macky Sall, a politician from Senegal, has been president since April 2012. He was re-elected as president in the first round of voting in February 2019. From July 2004 to June 2007 and again from June 2007 to November 2008, Sall served as Prime Minister of Senegal under President Abdoulaye Wade. From 2002 to 2008 and again from 2009 to 2012, he served as Mayor of Fatick. Sall spent a long time as a member of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). After he fell out of favour with Wade and was forced to resign as President of the National Assembly in November 2008, he formed the Alliance for the Republic (APR) and joined the opposition. After finishing in second place in the first round of voting for president in 2012, he received support from other opposition candidates. He ultimately defeated Wade in the runoff election on March 25 2012. Born after Senegal gained its independence from France, he is the country’s first president to be born in that country. He led Ecowas as its chairman from May 19, 2015, till June 4, 2016.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2016–2017)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia’s president from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was Africa’s first female president. From 1971 to 1974, she was Deputy Minister of Finance in William Tolbert’s government. Later, she worked for the World Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean. She was Finance Minister from 1979 to 1980. Sirleaf escaped to the US when Samuel Doe murdered Tolbert in 1980. Citibank and Equator Bank employed her. She returned to Liberia for a contested 1985 senate election in Montserrado County. She was jailed in 1985 for criticising the military administration and sentenced to ten years in prison but was eventually released. Sirleaf remained in politics. She lost the 1997 presidential election to Charles Taylor; she became president on January 16, 2006, after winning in 2005. Sirleaf was re-elected in 2011; she was Africa’s first woman president and won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for bringing women into peacekeeping. She’s won several leadership accolades. Sirleaf became the first woman to lead the Economic Community of West African States in June 2016. She was Ecowas’s chairperson from 2016 to 2017.
Faure Gnassingbé (2017–2018)
Faure Gnassingbé has been Togo’s president since 2005. His father, President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, appointed him Minister of Equipment, Mines, Posts, and Telecommunications from 2003 to 2005. After Eyadéma died in 2005, Gnassingbé became president with army support. Gnassingbé resigned on February 25 due to doubts about the constitutional legality of the succession. On April 24 2005, he won a contentious election and became president. He was re-elected in 2010. In April 2015, Gnassingbé won a third term after defeating Jean-Pierre Fabre 59% to 35%. Gnassingbé won a fourth term as Togo’s president in 2020. His official vote share was 72%. This helped him beat former PM Agbeyome Kodjo, who had 18%. Elections in Togo are highly controversial. He served as chairman of Ecowas from June 4, 2017, until July 31, 2018.
Muhammadu Buhari (2018–2019)
From July 31, 2018, to June 29, 2019, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari served for the second time as Ecowas chairman, this time as a civilian leader.
Mahamadou Issoufou (2019–2020)
Mahamadou Issoufou is a politician from Niger. From April 7, 2011, to April 2, 2021, he was President of Niger. Issoufou served as Niger’s prime minister for a year between 1993 and 1994, as well as the presidency of the National Assembly for two years between 1995 and 1996. From its inception in 1990 until he was elected president in 2011, he presided over the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya), a social democratic party. Issoufou was the most prominent political opponent of President Mamadou Tandja (1999-2010). In March 2021, he was awarded the Ibrahim Prize for good governance, democratic election, and respect for term limits for having departed office by honouring the constitution limiting him to two presidential terms, resulting in the first-ever democratic transition of power in the country. From June 29, 2019, to June 2, 2020, he presided as chairman of Ecowas.
Nana Akufo-Addo (2020–2022)
Addo Nana Akufo-Addo has been Ghana’s president since January 7 2017; his second term ends on January 6 2025. Akufo-Addo served as Attorney General and Foreign Minister under John Kufuor. He became ECOWAS chairman on September 7 2020. On February 2 2021, he was re-elected as ECOWAS Chairman. He finished his term on July 3, 2022. Akufo-Addo campaigned for president as the NPP in 2008 and 2012. John Evans Atta Mills in 2008 and John Dramani Mahama in 2012 defeated him. After the 2012 elections, he refused to concede and challenged the results in court, but the Ghanaian Supreme Court upheld Mahama’s victory. He was the New Patriotic Party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 general elections and defeated President Mahama in the first round (with 53.85% of the vote). He won an overwhelming majority in the 2020 general elections (51.59%) and was inaugurated at 1:03 pm GMT on January 7 2021. This was the first time in a Ghanaian presidential election that an opposition candidate achieved a majority in the first round. It was the first time an opposition candidate unseated a president. Nana Akufo-Addo vowed in December 2021 not to run for a third term in 2024.
Umaro Sissoco Embaló (2022-present)
Umaro Sissoco Embaló is Guinea-Bissau’s president since Feb. 27, 2020. President José Mário Vaz appointed Embaló prime minister on November 18 2016. On January 13 2018, amid differences with President José Mário Vaz, he was replaced by Joo Fadiá (finance minister) and Botche Candé (interior minister). Embaló resigned on January 16 2018. Madem G15’s Embaló campaigned for president in 2019. In the first round, he received 27% of the vote. According to preliminary and final election results, he beat another ex-prime minister, Domingos Simes Pereira, 54% to 46%. Domingos Simes Pereira disputes the outcome; Sissoco Embaló staged an alternate swearing-in ceremony in a Bissau hotel to identify himself as Guinea-legitimate Bissau’s president. Neither the supreme court nor parliament had approved the formal ceremony. Guinea-Prime Bissau’s Minister Aristides Gomes accused Sissoco Embaló of a coup d’état, but outgoing President Mário Vaz stepped aside to let Embaló take office. He became Ecowas chairman on July 3 2022, succeeding Nana Akufo-Addo.
Past and Present ECOWAS Commission Executive Secretaries & Presidents
Aboubakar Diaby Ouattara (1977–1985)
Aboubakar Diaby Ouattara is a member of the Côte d’Ivoire’s diplomatic corps. From the time the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established in 1977 until 1985, he held the position of first Executive Secretary in that organisation.
Momodu Munu (1985-1989)
Momodu Munu is a retired diplomat from the African nation of Sierra Leone. Munu was appointed Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States in 1985 and served until 1989.
Abass Bundu (1989–1993)
Abass Chernor Bundu has been a Sierra Leonean politician, diplomat, and House Speaker since April 25, 2018. Bundu received 70 votes to become the speaker. The All People’s Congress, which won the most seats in parliament, boycotted the election process and did not nominate a candidate for speaker. Bundu is a veteran politician and Julius Maada Bio’s close friend. Before becoming the speaker, Bundu was SLPP’s northern regional chairman. He’s one of the ruling party’s most senior and influential members. Bundu is the older brother of All People’s Congress MP Ibrahim Bundu. Bundu served as the executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) from 1989 to 1993. Bundu headed Foreign Affairs and Agriculture in Sierra Leone. He was the presidential candidate of the now-defunct Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in 1996 in Sierra Leone, where he was defeated in the first round.
Édouard Benjamin (1993–1997)
Édouard Benjamin is a diplomat for the African nation of Guinea. From 1989 to 1992, he held the Minister of Economy and Finance position. From 1993 until 1997, he was the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, also known as ECOWAS.
Lansana Kouyaté (1997-2002)
Lansana Kouyaté was Guinea’s PM from 2007 to 2008. He was ECOWAS executive secretary from 1997 to 2002. In 1982, Kouyaté worked on a rice improvement project before joining Guinea’s Cote d’Ivoire delegation. In 1985, he returned to Conakry as Director of African and OAU affairs; he was Guinea’s ambassador to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey two years later. In 1992, he became Guinea’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Vice President of the ECOSOC. In 1993, he was named Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Somalia for UNOSOM II, then Acting Representative in February 1994. In June 1994, he became the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. One of his first assignments was to travel to ECOWAS member states to discuss Liberia. He continued to build regional support for ending the First Liberian Civil War. He left in September 1997 to become Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a role he maintained until February 2002.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas (2002-2010)
Mohamed Ibn Chambas is a lawyer, diplomat, politician, and academic from Ghana. Since 2006, he has worked as an international civil servant. His previous positions include Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (2010-2012), President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS, 2006–2009), and Special Representative and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Darfur Peacekeeping Mission (2012-2014). The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) chose Chambas as its Executive Secretary in 2001, and he took office on February 1 of that year. From 2002 until 2006, he served as Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), overseeing the organisation’s 15-person Executive Secretariat. On January 1, 2007, he took office as the ECOWAS Commission’s first president, a post he held until February 18, 2010. From April 2014 to April 2021, he oversaw UNOWAS as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel.
James Victor Gbeho (2010–2012)
James Victor Gbeho is a Ghanaian lawyer and diplomat who was President of ECOWAS from 2010 to 2012. He was unanimously elected at the 37th Summit of the 15 Member States’ Heads of State and Government. He was Ghana’s Foreign Minister under President Jerry Rawlings from 1997 to 2001 and the Anlo MP from 2001 to 2005. He became President John Atta Mills’ foreign policy advisor. Before retiring as a diplomat and politician, Gbeho served in Ghana’s diplomatic missions abroad. He served in Ghana’s missions in China, India, Nigeria, Germany, the UK, and Switzerland. Gbeho was Ghana’s Deputy High Commissioner to the Court of St. James’s (UK) from 1972 to 1976, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the European offices of the UN in Geneva (1978–80), with concurrent accreditation to UNIDO in Vienna, Austria, and Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York City from 1980 to 1990, concurrently accredited to Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. The UN Secretary-General appointed him to Somalia in July 1994. Jerry Rawlings, as ECOWAS chairman, appointed Gbeho as Liberia’s special representative.
Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo (2012-2016)
Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo has served as the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso (from 1996 to 2000) and the chairman of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (from 2012 to 2016). He began working in the Financial Division of FOSIDEC at ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) headquarters in Ouagadougou in 1980. From 1981 through 1983, he served as FOSIDEC’s Head of the Financial Division before becoming ECOWAS’s Financial Advisor to the Secretary-General. In July 1985, he was moved to Deputy Executive Secretary of ECOWAS in Lagos, Nigeria, where he oversaw the organisation’s economic policy. The Council of Ministers of this group re-appointed him in 1989. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo was named Vice-Governor of the CBWAS in Senegal in 1993.
Marcel Alain de Souza (2016-2018)
Marcel Alain de Souza was a politician and banker in Benin. From May 2011 until June 2015, he served as Benin’s Minister for Development, Economic Analysis, and Forecast. Between April 2016 and February 2018, he presided over the ECOWAS Commission; in light of the dire financial circumstances of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he temporarily halted all official ECOWAS staff travel outside of the Abuja ECOWAS headquarters. He also restricted employees’ participation in mandatory ECOWAS events. During his presidency, the Gambian constitutional crisis of 2016 and 2017 occurred. He expressed doubts about ECOWAS’s progress toward its aim of establishing a unified currency by 2020 in October 2017. On February 28, 2018, his term as president ended.
Jean-Claude Brou (2018-2022)
Jean-Claude Kassi Brou is a prominent political and economic figure in Ivory Coast. Since March 1 2018, he has served as President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States. His term ended on July 3 2022. He was Ivory Coast’s Minister of Industry and Mines from November 2012 until March 2018. Ivory Coast was given the Presidency of the ECOWAS Commission on December 16, 2017, during the 52nd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with Brou appointed the following year to serve a four-year term. On March 1, 2018, Brou officially replaced Marcel Alain de Souza. Brou continued his role as Minister of Industry and Mines until his appointment. Jean-Claude Brou was picked as the new governor of the BCEAO in June of 2022.
Omar Touray (2022-present)
Omar Alieu Touray is a diplomat from the Gambia. He was Gambia’s UN ambassador from 2007 to 2008 and foreign minister since March 2008; he was World Indigenous Organization’s Geneva liaison from September 1993 to December 1994. He was a consultant at the International Labour Office in Geneva until July 1995, when he became Senior Assistant Secretary at the Gambian Ministry of External Affairs and First Secretary of the Gambian Embassy to Belgium, EU, and WTO. He was a Counsellor and Head of Chancery at the same embassy until April 2002. From April 2002 to September 2007, Touray was Gambian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Permanent Representative to the African Union, UN Economic Commission for Africa, and UN Environment Programme, and High Commissioner to South Africa and Kenya. He replaced Crispin Grey-Johnson as Gambia’s Permanent Representative to the UN on March 19, 2008. On March 26, Touray took the oath of office as Secretary of State. He worked for the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia and Ivory Coast after being fired in September 2009. Omar Touray was unanimously appointed ECOWAS Commission president in October 2021. On July 3, 2022, he succeeded Jean-Claude Brou as president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).