(Bamako) The military regimes in power in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have decided to withdraw their countries, with immediate effect, from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a sub-regional organization of 15 members, they announced on Sunday in a joint press release.
The respective leaders of the three Sahelian States, “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,” said the statement read on the state media of these countries.
The three countries, faced with similar problems of insecurity, jihadism and poverty, have had tense relations with ECOWAS since the military took power there by force, in 2020 in Mali, in 2022 in Burkina Faso and in 2023 in Niger.
ECOWAS is trying to stem the attacks and push for civilians to return to power as quickly as possible. It took heavy sanctions against Mali and Niger and went so far as to threaten to use force in the latter country. It suspended the three countries from its proceedings.
ECOWAS, “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations,” said the joint press release.
Military regimes continue to denounce the exploitation made, according to them, of ECOWAS by the former French colonial power.
The withdrawal from ECOWAS is the latest act of rupture on their part.
“Regret, bitterness and disappointment”
They pushed French ambassadors and forces out and turned politically and militarily towards Russia. They have also formed an alliance placed under the sign of sovereignty and pan-Africanism.
The military emphasize in their press release that their country participated in the creation of ECOWAS in 1975.
“After 49 years of existence, the valiant people of Burkina, Mali and Niger note with great regret, bitterness and great disappointment that their organization has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and Pan-Africanism,” they say.
They accuse the organization of not having helped them in the face of the jihadists who have been raging since 2012, first in Mali, then also in its two neighbors, killing thousands of combatants and civilians, and causing the displacement of millions of people. .
The sanctions taken against their country represented “an irrational and unacceptable posture”, at a time when “these states have decided to take their destiny into their own hands”, they say, referring to the putsches which overthrew the civilian regimes in place.
The retaliatory measures taken by ECOWAS have had little effect to date on the return of civilians to the leadership of their country.
In Mali, the military in place for almost four years under the leadership of Colonel Assimi Goïta had committed to organizing elections in February 2024. But they postponed the deadline to an unknown date.
In Burkina, Captain Ibrahim Traoré affirmed after taking power on September 30, 2022 that he would keep the commitments made to ECOWAS by his predecessor, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Henri Damiba, to hold elections in the summer of 2024. .
Since then, the regime has indicated that the fight against jihadist groups was the priority.
No sanctions have been taken against Burkina, other than the suspension of ECOWAS bodies.
In Niger, the trade blockade has pushed up food prices and created a shortage of essential products, including medicines.
A few days after the coup, General Abdourahamane Tiani declared that the transition period before the return of civilians would not exceed three years. The exact duration of the transition must be set during a “national dialogue” which has not yet started.