The three countries, led by military governments, have accused the regional bloc of becoming a threat to member states.
Three military-led West African countries announced their immediate withdrawal from the ECOWAS regional blocaccusing the body of becoming a threat to its members.
Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso “decide in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal” from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), we read in a joint press release published on Sunday.
ECOWAS “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its population”, we read in the press release.
The three countries accused the regional body of failing to support their fight against “terrorism and insecurity,” while imposing “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions.”
ECOWAS said in a statement that it had not been informed of the countries’ decision to leave the bloc. Its protocol provides that withdrawal takes up to a year to complete.
“Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains determined to find a negotiated solution to the political impasse,” the statement said.
Widely considered West Africa’s highest political and regional authority, the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc – formed in 1975 to “promote economic integration” in member states – has struggled in recent years to reversing widespread coups in the region whose citizens complained they were not victims of coups. benefiting from rich natural resources.
Military takeovers took place in Mali in 2020 and 2021, in Burkina Faso in 2022 and in Niger in 2023.
The regional body responded by suspending the three countries and imposing heavy sanctions on Niger and Mali.
On Friday, Niger attempted to change its ties with ECOWAS by inviting its representatives to Niamey, the capital, but only a representation from Togo showed up.
“There is bad faith within this organization,” lamented Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, prime minister appointed by the Niger army.
The three countries’ military leaders have pledged to combat the rise of violent armed groups in their countries and have joined forces in the so-called “Alliance of Sahel States.”
All three countries have severed military ties with France, the former colonial power. France once had a strong presence in the Sahel, but announced the withdrawal of its troops from the three countries after the coups.
The French military withdrawal and economic sanctions against already fragile economies have increased fears that armed groups will spread south to the relatively stable coastal countries of Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast.
West Africa recorded more than 1,800 attacks in the first six months of 2023, killing nearly 4,600 people and creating dire humanitarian consequences. According to a Senior ECOWAS regional officialit was just “a snippet of the horrific impact of insecurity.”