The military administrations in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have officially declared their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In a joint statement issued on Sunday, the leaders of these Sahel nations asserted that their departure from ECOWAS was a “sovereign decision” made “without delay.”
Challenged by jihadist violence and economic hardships, these regimes have experienced strained relations with ECOWAS since coups unfolded in Niger (July 2023), Burkina Faso (2022), and Mali (2020). The suspension of all three countries from ECOWAS, coupled with hefty sanctions against Niger and Mali, prompted a solidification of their positions, leading to the formation of an “Alliance of Sahel States.”
As the French military contemplates withdrawing from the Sahel region, situated along the Sahara Desert across Africa, concerns have intensified regarding the potential southward spread of conflicts to Gulf of Guinea states, including Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Ivory Coast.
The prime minister appointed by Niger’s military regime criticized ECOWAS for “bad faith” on Thursday, particularly after the bloc largely ignored a planned meeting in Niamey. Niger had anticipated the opportunity to engage in dialogue with fellow ECOWAS member states to address differences. However, ECOWAS responded by cold-shouldering Niamey and imposing severe economic and financial sanctions following the military coup that ousted elected President Mohamed Bazoum.