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Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger quit ECOWAS

January 28, 2024

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

A general view of attendees during the 64th Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Head of States and Government ordinary session in Abuja in December 2023
ECOWAS is the regional political and economic blocImage: Kola Sulaimon/AFP

Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, said Sunday they are leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) immediately.

All three countries, which were founding members of ECOWAS in 1975, are currently led by militaries that seized power from civilian leaders.

"After 49 years, the valiant peoples of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regretfully and with great disappointment observe that the (ECOWAS) organization has drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," Colonel Amadou Abdramane, Niger junta spokesman, said in a statement.

The three countries were suspended from ECOWAS following the coups, and relations between them and the regional bloc have deteriorated for months.

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

Last year, they withdrew from an international force known as the G5 that was set up to fight Islamists in the Sahel region, forming their own so-called Alliance of Sahel States (AES).

Tension between Juntas and ECOWAS

ECOWAS said Sunday the three countries were "important members of the Community" and the bloc "remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse."

It added that it had "yet to receive any direct formal notification" from the countries about their withdrawal."

At a summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja in December, West African leaders demanded a "short" period of transition toward civilian rule in coup-hit Niger before they would ease economic sanctions on the country.

Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in July 2023, and the junta said it would take three years to return to civilian rule.

In Mali's case, civilian rule was last in place before the first of two coups, in August 2020.

Burkina Faso's elected government was ousted in 2022. The country has not been put under sanctions and its current ruler, Captain Ibrahim Traore has allowed elections to take place this summer.

But Traore has said the fight against the insurgents remains the top priority.

jcg/lo (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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