In a joint statement issued on Sunday, military regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger declared their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The announcement was made on Niger national television, with the leaders of the three Sahel nations asserting that the decision to leave the regional bloc was a “sovereign” one.
Colonel Amadou Abdramane, the spokesperson for the Niger junta, conveyed the sentiments of the nations, stating, “After 49 years, the valiant peoples of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regretfully and with great disappointment observe that the (ECOWAS) organization has drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism.” He highlighted the perceived failure of ECOWAS to assist the member states in their fight against terrorism and insecurity as a significant factor in the decision to withdraw.
Notably, in September 2023, the three countries had signed a mutual defense pact known as the “Alliance of Sahel States,” aimed at assisting each other in the face of armed rebellion or external aggression. The charter bound the nations to provide mutual assistance, including military support, in the event of an attack against any of them.
Mali’s military leader, Assimi Goita, had earlier expressed the collective commitment, stating, “I have today signed with the Heads of State of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako-Gourma charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States, with the aim of establishing a collective defense and mutual assistance framework.”
The withdrawal comes amid concerns over the efficacy of ECOWAS in addressing regional security challenges. ECOWAS had imposed sanctions on Niger and threatened military action following a coup in the country in July, underscoring the complex dynamics within the regional organization. The decision to exit ECOWAS reflects the perceived need for a new approach to regional collaboration in addressing pressing issues facing Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.