Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Quit ECOWAS, Say regional bloc Under Foreign Control

 Allege organisation failed to support their fight against terrorism, insecurity

Declare group has become a threat to member states and populations

Commission: No formal letter of membership withdrawal yet

Atiku: It’s the result of serious diplomatic meltdown 

Emmanuel Addeh,  Chuks Okocha, and Michael Olugbode in Abuja

In a move that has sent shock waves across the sub-region, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic, yesterday, pulled out of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), alleging that the group’s decisions are being influenced by foreign powers.

In a joint statement, the three countries, currently led by military juntas, accused the regional bloc of moving away from the ideals of its founding fathers, after nearly 50 years of its establishment.

Before the latest development, the 15 members of ECOWAS were Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. 

The main goal of ECOWAS is to promote economic cooperation among member states in order to raise the living standards of their people and promote economic development of member states.

ECOWAS has also worked to address some security issues by developing a peacekeeping force for conflicts in the region.

But Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic accused the organisation of failing to assist them in their existential fight against terrorism and growing insecurity.

In the joint communiqué read on national television of each of the countries, obtained by THISDAY, the three countries maintained that ECOWAS had become a threat to its founding members by embarking on inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its own rules.

The communiqué read, “Eager to achieve integration between the States of the sub-region and driven by the ideals of fraternity, solidarity, mutual aid, peace and development, their Excellencies, Gen. Aboubacar Sangoulé Lamizana, Gen. Moussa Traoré, and Lieutenant – Colonel Seyni Kountché, respectively, Heads of State of Upper Volta (current Burkina Faso), Mali and Niger, created with 12 of their peers, on May 28, 1975, in Lagos, the Economic Community of States of West Africa (ECOWAS).

“After 49 years of existence, the valiant people of Burkina, Mali and Niger note with great regret, bitterness and great disappointment that their organisation has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and from Pan-Africanism.

“Furthermore, 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.”

The military had seized power in the three countries, in part, triggered by frustrations over the failure of the authorities to stem an Islamist insurgency that troubled the Sahel region.

But in reaction, at an ECOWAS extraordinary session last year, presided by Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, the organisation’s chairperson, in Abuja, a resolution was reached to impose several sanctions on the countries, especially Niger, over the military coups.

ECOWAS also issued a one-week ultimatum to the coup plotters in Niger to hand over power to the democratically elected government in that country.

Tinubu had strongly condemned the coup, saying ECOWAS would not tolerate any anti-democratic acts. He assured that the union would do everything to ensure that peace returned to Niger and the region, at large.

Part of the ECOWAS’ resolution was to use all measures necessary, including force, to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger, if its demands were not met.

It, thereafter, closed all land and air borders between member countries and Niger and moved to suspend all commercial and financial transactions between member states and Niger, a development that angered the transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali.

The statement by the three countries, translated from French to English, said, “Indeed, the organisation did not provide assistance to our states as part of our existential fight against terrorism and worse insecurity. When these states decided to take their destiny into their own hands, it adopted an irrational and unacceptable method by imposing illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its own texts.

“All these have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence imposed by exploited terrorist hordes and remotely controlled.”

Confronted with the harsh situations, the three countries explained that they would no longer remain in the regional bloc.

They said the decision to leave was in tandem with the expectations of the people of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

According to the joint communiqué, “Faced with this continuing situation, Their Excellencies, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré, Col. Assimi Goïta and Brig.- Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani, respectively, Heads of State of Burkina Faso, the Republic of Mali and the Republic of Niger, taking all their responsibilities in the face of history and responding to the expectations, concerns and aspirations of their populations, decide in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States.”

But in a reaction, yesterday, the ECOWAS commission said it was yet to receive any formal letter indicating the withdrawal of the countries’ membership from the sub-regional body.

ECOWAS Commission stated, “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 commission said it had been working with the three countries to ensure the return of constitutional order.

The brief statement said, “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 evolves.”

In Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, called for tighter security measures to safeguard the country’s borders in the face of the latest developments.

Atiku, in a short message posted on X, described the situation as a “serious diplomatic meltdown,” saying Nigeria must now double its efforts to protect its security interests.

The former vice president stated, “Reports about the withdrawal of three countries from our sub-regional body, @ecowas_cedeao, is concerning. It is a matter of serious diplomatic meltdown.

“We must keep the country’s national security interest, especially the fight against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and others in focus while we appraise the situation.”

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