Nations Leave Bloc After Coups

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger juntas call sanctions inhumane
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2024 10:45 AM CST
3 Nations Leave Economic Bloc Over Sanctions Opposing Coups
Defense chiefs from ECOWAS countries excluding Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Niger meet in Accra, Ghana, in August to discuss the situation in Niger.   (AP Photo/Richard Eshun Nanaresh, File)

West African nations Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have withdrawn from the regional economic bloc known as ECOWAS, their respective juntas announced Sunday, accusing the bloc of "inhumane" sanctions to reverse the coups in their nations. The AP reports that the juntas said in a joint statement read out on state television in all three countries that they have "decided in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)," alleging that the bloc has "moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism" after nearly 50 years of its establishment.

"ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure," their statements read. Widely seen as West Africa's top political and regional authority, the 15-nation bloc of ECOWAS—formed in 1975 to "promote economic integration" in member states—has struggled in recent years to reverse rampant coups in the region where citizens have complained of not benefitting from rich natural resources. In parts of West Africa, ECOWAS is fast losing its effectiveness and support among citizens, who see it as representing only the interests of the leaders and not those of the masses, said Oge Onubogu of the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank.

It's not immediately clear how that process of the countries' withdrawal from the bloc would be carried out. ECOWAS didn't immediately respond to an AP inquiry, though the bloc has said it only recognizes democratic governments. The bloc's regional court also ruled last year that juntas lack the power to act in place of elected governments on behalf of their nations. Sunday's announcement is the latest twist in a series of events that have deepened political tension in West Africa since it experienced its latest of a string of coups—in Niger—last year. It also comes as the three nations have formed a security alliance after severing military ties with France and other European nations and turning to Russia for support.

(More ECOWAS stories.)

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