Three West African countries under military rule have declared their quick exit from the ECOWAS regional organization, citing the organization as a danger to its constituents.
In a joint statement released on Sunday, January 29, 2024, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso stated that they “decided in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal” from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to the statement, ECOWAS “has become a threat to its member states and its population under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles.”
The three nations charged that the regional organization was enforcing “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane, and irresponsible sanctions” while failing to assist them in their battle against “terrorism and insecurity.”
In a statement, ECOWAS stated that it was unaware of the countries’ plans to leave the bloc. According to its guidelines, the process of withdrawing can take up to a year.
It stated, “The Authority is steadfast in its commitment to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse, and Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain significant members of the Community.”
The 15-nation bloc of ECOWAS, which was established in 1975 to “promote economic integration” in member states, is widely regarded as the leading political and regional authority in West Africa. However, in recent years, it has struggled to put an end to the region’s rampant coups, as residents have complained that they are not benefiting from the region’s abundant natural resources.
Mali in 2020 and 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Niger in 2023 all had military takeovers. According to Aljazeera, the regional body reacted by suspending all three countries and imposing heavy sanctions on Niger and Mali.
The commanders of the three countries’ armed forces have united under the banner of the “Alliance of Sahel States,” promising to combat the emergence of dangerous armed groups within their borders.
The three nations no longer maintain military connections with the previous colonial power, France. France used to be a major force in the Sahel, but following the coups, it said that its forces would be leaving the three nations.
There is now more fear that armed groups may move southward and into the more stable coastal nations of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Ivory Coast as a result of the French military withdrawal and economic sanctions placed on already vulnerable economies.
In the first half of 2023, there were over 1,800 attacks in West Africa, which led to around 4,600 deaths and severe humanitarian implications. A senior regional official for ECOWAS claimed that this was only “a snippet of the horrendous impact of insecurity,” Aljazeera report.