The military regimes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger had announced their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, saying it had become a threat to member states.

The ECOWAS Commission, however, said the community is ready for a “negotiated solution” with the three countries
But the Presidency in its immediate reaction yesterday, said the three countries were technically not members of ECOWAS, since they were on suspension.

Leaders of the three Sahel nations issued a statement saying it was a “sovereign decision” to leave the ECOWAS “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 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, had become a threat to member states and peoples.

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

Under pressure from the military regimes, 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 conflicts spreading southward to Gulf of Guinea states Ghana, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast.

BBC / Titilayo Kupoliyi

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