In a surprising move, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional bloc aiming for political and economic integration. The decision, described by the three governments as a ‘sovereign decision,’ comes after they had already been suspended from the bloc due to recent military coups in the respective countries.
Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso were not only founding members of Ecowas but have also accused the bloc of deviating from its original principles and the spirit of Pan-Africanism. In a joint statement broadcasted on state media, the countries claimed that foreign influence had undermined Ecowas and made it a threat to its member states and peoples. They also criticized the bloc for its failure to address the growing jihadist violence in their nations.
Since their suspensions, tensions between Ecowas and the three countries have intensified, despite the bloc’s continuous calls for a return to civilian rule. In response to the announcement, Ecowas emphasized the importance of the three nations as members of the community and expressed its commitment to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse. However, the bloc has not yet received formal notification of their withdrawal.
The three countries, seeking to restore security amidst jihadist insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, have distanced themselves from former colonial power France and strengthened ties with Russia. In September, they formed a mutual defense pact known as The Alliance of Sahel States, further alienating them from Ecowas.
Niger’s military leaders have requested up to three years for a transition back to civilian rule, while Mali’s military government, initially planning elections for February, has postponed them indefinitely. In Burkina Faso, authorities have set elections for this summer but asserted that countering the insurgency remains their top priority.
Ecowas had planned a meeting with the junta in Niger to discuss sanctions, but the gathering was postponed due to technical problems with the delegation’s aircraft in Abuja, Nigeria.
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