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West Africa and Sahel

ECOWAS yet to receive withdrawal notification from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has not received the formal notification of withdrawal from the bloc by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

ECOWAS is a sub-regional political and economic union of 15 West African countries.

It stated on Sunday in Abuja that its attention had been drawn to a broadcast on the national television stations of Mali and Niger announcing the decision of the three countries to withdraw from the union.

“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 for the restoration of constitutional order in those countries.

“Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to their political impasses.

“The ECOWAS Commission remains seized with the development and shall make further pronouncements as the situation evolves,’’ it stated.

The military regimes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced Sunday their immediate withdrawal from the West African bloc ECOWAS, saying it has become a threat to member states.

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”.

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 — founding members of the bloc in 1975 — were suspended from ECOWAS with Niger and Mali facing heavy sanctions as the bloc tried to push for the early return of civilian governments with elections.

The sanctions were an “irrational and unacceptable posture” at a time when the three “have decided to take their destiny in hand” — a reference to the coups that removed civilian administrations.

The three nations have hardened their positions in recent months and joined forces in an “Alliance of Sahel States”.

The leaders’ joint statement added that 15-member ECOWAS, “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to member states and peoples”.

They accused the grouping of failing to help them tackle the jihadists who swept into Mali from 2012 and then on to Burkina and Niger.

But leaving ECOWAS could make trade more difficult for the three land-locked nations, making goods more expensive, and could also see visa requirements re-imposed for travel.

Under pressure from the military regimes, former colonial power France has removed ambassadors and troops and watched Russia fill the void militarily and politically.

The French army’s 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 regime on Thursday blasted ECOWAS for “bad faith” after the bloc largely shunned a planned meeting in Niamey.

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