Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso Leave ECOWAS

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The trio of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso on Sunday announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The West African countries are currently led by soldiers following coups that ousted the civilian leadership in the countries with Niger being the latest.

Struggling with jihadist violence and poverty, the regimes have had tense ties with ECOWAS since coups took place in Niger in July 2023, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Mali in 2020.

All three were suspended from ECOWAS with Niger and Mali facing heavy sanctions.

According to an Associated Press report, the juntas in the three countries accused ECOWAS of “inhumane” sanctions imposed on them to reverse the coups.

In a joint statement read on state television, they said they have “decided in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), alleging that the bloc has “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism” after nearly 50 years of its establishment.

They have hardened their positions in recent months and joined forces in an “Alliance of Sahel States”.

A French military withdrawal from the Sahel — the region along the Sahara desert across Africa — has heightened concerns over the conflicts spreading southward to Gulf of Guinea states Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast.

The prime minister appointed by Niger’s military regime on Thursday blasted ECOWAS for “bad faith” after the bloc largely shunned a planned meeting in Niamey.

Niger had hoped for an opportunity to talk through differences with fellow states of ECOWAS which has has cold-shouldered Niamey, imposing heavy economic and financial sanctions following the military coup that overthrew elected president, Mr Mohamed Bazoum.

An ECOWAS ministerial mission was due to visit Niamey on Thursday, January 25 but that did not happen.

“The Community delegation waited the whole of Thursday at the Abuja airport, in readiness to fly to Niamey. Unfortunately, owing to technical issues with the aircraft chartered by the Commission, the special flight scheduled to convey the ECOWAS delegation could not depart Abuja for Niamey,” ECOWAS explained in a statement.

The bloc said it regretted the meeting could not happen but was ready to find a new date to field the mission as soon as possible.

“ECOWAS remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement to the political challenges in the sub-region,” it added.

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