The military-led governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have officially announced 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 described the decision as a “sovereign choice” to leave ECOWAS promptly.
Struggling with challenges such as jihadist violence and poverty, the governments of these countries have had strained relationships with ECOWAS since experiencing coups in Niger in July 2022, Burkina Faso in 2023, and Mali in 2020. As a consequence, all three nations were suspended from ECOWAS, and Niger and Mali faced significant sanctions.
In recent months, the countries have solidified their positions and formed an “Alliance of Sahel States.” The withdrawal announcement follows concerns over a French military withdrawal from the Sahel region, raising fears of conflicts spreading to Gulf of Guinea states like Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Ivory Coast.
The prime minister appointed by Niger’s military regime criticized ECOWAS for “bad faith” after the bloc largely avoided a planned meeting in Niamey. Niger had hoped for a dialogue with ECOWAS member states to address differences, but the organization imposed substantial economic and financial sanctions in response to the military coup that ousted elected president Mohamed Bazoum.