Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso Exit ECOWAS

Michael Olugbode in Abuja with agency report

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, three West African countries ruled by military junta, Sunday announced their opting out of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic bloc.

The three countries have been placed under some levels of sanctions after their democratic governments were terminated by the military at various times.

Sunday’s joint announcement came as no surprise to many as the three nations at some point last year, threatened to wage war against any attempt by ECOMOG (the military coalition of the subregional body) to force out the military junta in Niger, the last nation which nullified a democratically elected government.

The decision by the three countries, announced in a joint statement read out on Niger’s national television, may however be seen as a blow to the bloc’s regional integration efforts after it suspended the three countries following military takeovers.

Since the coups and despite the sanctions, negotiations and threats of military intervention, the military leaders have failed to provide a clear timetable on the return of the countries to constitutional rule.

Instead, they have hardened their rhetoric against the bloc and accused it of being influenced by external powers. The three countries have also cut military and cooperation ties with former colonial master France, and turned to Russia for security support.

The three military leaders in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have always posited that their interregnum was based on the need to restore security to their country and that they would only organise elections when they have fully arrested insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

A statement on Sunday by the Niger junta spokesman, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, read: “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.

“The organization notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity.”

With this, it is unclear for now how the decision by juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali will impact the 15-member regional bloc where goods and citizens move freely.

According to the bloc’s treaty, member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice. It is unclear for now if the three states have done so. The treaty says they must continue to abide by its provisions during the year-long period.

The three countries are also members of the eight-nation West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) that uses the West Africa CFA franc currency pegged to the euro.

The monetary union, following decisions by ECOWAS leaders after the coups in Mali and Niger, had cut off their access to the regional financial market, and the regional central bank. It later restored Mali’s access but Niger remains suspended.

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