Slamming the Door

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Three military-led countries, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, decided this week to withdraw from the powerful Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), following sanctions from the bloc and allegations of foreign influence, Al Jazeera reported.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the three governments said ECOWAS had become “a threat to its member states and its population,” arguing it did not support their fight against “terrorism and insecurity.”

Between 2020 and 2023, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger experienced military coups, leading to a suspension from the bloc. ECOWAS also imposed sanctions on Mali, while even heavier sanctions against Niger have left the country vulnerable to defaulting on debt repayments.

The 15-nation bloc was formed in 1975 to promote economic integration. However, it has recently faced the opposition of some members, dismayed at the absence of sovereignty over local natural resources.

Niger was once one of the West’s closest partners in addressing the rise of violent armed groups in the Sahel area. After the coup, it joined with Mali and Burkina Faso in the so-called “Alliance of Sahel States,” demanding France, the region’s former colonial, withdraw its troops.

France’s response – withdrawal and sanctions – have led to concerns that it could further destabilize the region. The stable coastal countries of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Ivory Coast also face the threat of armed groups destabilizing their countries.

West Africa has seen more than 1,800 attacks and 4,600 deaths recorded between January and June 2023.

The bloc stressed it had not been notified in advance of the three military regimes’ joint decision to exit. The departure could take up to a year, according to protocol.

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