Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso quit ECOWAS regional block

JAN 28, 2024 LISTEN

Three West African junta-led states Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso said on Sunday they are leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) immediately, according to a joint statement read out on Niger national television.

The military regimes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger shared a joined announcement on Sunday afternoon, regarding their immediate withdrawal from the West African bloc ECOWAS

The leaders of the three Sahel nations issued a statement saying it was a "sovereign decision" to leave the Economic Community of West African States "without delay".

"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," Colonel Amadou Abdramane, Niger junta spokesman, said in the statement.

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

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.

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

They have since 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 Mohamed Bazoum.

 (with newswires)