Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso say they are leaving Ecowas regional block

28 January 2024 - 18:24
By Reuters
Junta supporters in Niger take part in a demonstration in Niamey, Niger, August 11 2023.
Image: MAHAMEDOU HAMIDOU/REUTERS Junta supporters in Niger take part in a demonstration in Niamey, Niger, August 11 2023.

Three West African junta-led states Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso said on Sunday they are immediately leaving the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional economic bloc that has been urging them to return to democratic rule.

The decision by the three countries, announced in a joint statement read out on Niger national television, is a blow to the bloc’s regional integration efforts after it suspended the three countries after military takeovers.

Since the coups, and despite the sanctions, negotiations and threats of military intervention, the military leaders have failed to provide a clear timetable to return the countries to constitutional rule.

Instead, they have hardened their rhetoric against the bloc and accused it of being influenced by external powers.

The three countries have also cut military and co-operation ties with former colonial master France, and turned to Russia for security support.

The three military leaders in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, have argued that they want to restore security before organising elections as the three Sahel nations struggle to contain insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

“After 49 years, the valiant peoples of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regretfully and with great disappointment observe that the (Ecowas) organisation has drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” said Niger junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane.

“The organisation notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity,” Abdramane added.

It is unclear for now how the decision by juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali will impact the 15-member regional bloc where goods and citizens move freely.

According to the bloc’s treaty, member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice. It is unclear, for now, if the three states have done so. The treaty says they must continue to abide by its provisions during the year-long period.

The three countries are also members of the eight-nation West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) that uses the West Africa CFA franc currency pegged to the Euro. The monetary union, after decisions by Ecowas leaders after the coups in Mali and Niger, had cut off their access to the regional financial market, and the regional central bank. It later restored Mali’s access but Niger remains suspended.