The military regimes in the West African countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have announced their immediate withdrawal from the regional economic bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On Sunday, the leaders of the three Sahel nations issued a joint statement read out on state television in all three countries, saying it was a “sovereign decision” to leave the ECOWAS “without delay”.
Struggling with jihadist violence and poverty, the regimes have had tense ties with ECOWAS since coups took place in Niger last July, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Mali in 2020.
Their statements read, “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.
“Furthermore, ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure.”
All three were suspended from ECOWAS, with Niger and Mali facing heavy sanctions.
They have hardened their positions in recent months and joined forces in an “Alliance of Sahel States”.
A French military withdrawal from the Sahel has heightened concerns over the conflicts spreading southward to the Gulf of Guinea states of Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.
The prime minister appointed on Thursday by Niger’s military regime blasted ECOWAS for “bad faith” after the bloc largely shunned a planned meeting in Niamey.
Niger had hoped for an opportunity to discuss through their differences with fellow states of the bloc, which has cold-shouldered Niamey, imposing heavy economic and financial sanctions following the military coup that overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum.