The military regimes in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, have announced their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) headed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria.
The leaders of the three Sahel nations issued a joint statement on Sunday, January 28, 2024, to confirm the development.
They said it was a “sovereign decision to leave the ECOWAS without delay.”
The joint statement said: “After 49 years of existence, the brave people of Burkina, Mali and Niger note with much regret, bitterness and great disappointment that their Organization has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and Pan-Africanism
“Furthermore, ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betrayed its founding principles and has become a threat to its member states and populations whose happiness is supposed to ensure.
“Indeed, the Organization has not provided assistance to our States in the context of our existential fight against terrorism and insecurity; worse, when these States decided to take their destiny into their own hands, it adopted an irrational and unacceptable posture by imposing illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its texts, all things which have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence inflicted by instrumentalized and remote-controlled,” the statement read.
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 hardened their positions in recent months and joined forces in an “Alliance of Sahel States”.
Niger had hoped for an opportunity to talk through differences with fellow states of ECOWAS, which has cold-shouldered Niamey, imposing heavy economic and financial sanctions , following the military coup that overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum.
The three countries in September 2023, signed a mutual defence pact to assist one another against armed rebellion or external aggression.
The charter – Alliance of Sahel States – binds the countries to assist one another – including militarily should there be an attack against one of them.
Mali’s military leader Assimi Goita said on his X social media account, “I have today signed with the Heads of State of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako-Gourma charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States, to establish a collective defence and mutual assistance framework.”
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Commission has reacted to the withdrawal of membership by Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic.
The Commission said it was yet to receive any direct formal notification from the three Member-States about their intention to quit the regional bloc.
However, in a communique issued by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Sunday evening, the body said it had been working assiduously with the three countries for restoration of constitutional order, while insisting that Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remained important members of the Community and the Authority of Heads of State and Government remained committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
It said : “The attention of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Commission) has been drawn to a statement broadcast on the National Televisions of Mali and Niger announcing the decision of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to withdraw from ECOWAS.
“The ECOWAS Commission is yet to receive any direct formal notification from the three Member States about their intention to withdraw from the Community.
“The ECOWAS Commission, as directed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government, has been working assiduously with these countries for the restoration of constitutional order. Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
“The ECOWAS Commission remains seized with the development and shall make further pronouncements as the situation evolved.”