Three West African countries announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday, accusing the regional bloc of failing to support them in their fight against terrorism and imposing unfair sanctions on them.
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, which share borders and face similar security challenges from Islamist militants, said in a joint statement that they decided to leave ECOWAS “in complete sovereignty” and “taking all their responsibilities in the face of history”.
The statement, signed by the heads of state of the three countries, said that ECOWAS had “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and Pan-Africanism” and had “become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure”.
The statement cited the lack of assistance from ECOWAS in the context of their “existential fight against terrorism and insecurity” and the “irrational and unacceptable posture” of the bloc by imposing “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its own texts”.
The sanctions referred to the measures taken by ECOWAS against Mali and Niger following their military coups in 2020 and 2021, respectively. ECOWAS suspended the two countries from its decision-making bodies and imposed economic and diplomatic restrictions on them until they restored constitutional order and held credible elections.
Burkina Faso, which also experienced a coup in 2015, expressed solidarity with its neighbors and denounced the sanctions as “all things which have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence imposed by instrumentalized and remote-controlled terrorist hordes”.
The statement said that the three countries would continue to cooperate with each other and other African countries on the basis of “brotherhood, solidarity, mutual aid, peace and development”, which were the ideals of the founding fathers of ECOWAS.
ECOWAS was created in 1975 by 15 West African countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with the aim of promoting economic integration and regional cooperation. The bloc has since expanded to 16 members, with the addition of Cape Verde in 1977.