The military juntas in West African nations Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger jointly announced their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States on Sunday.
The juntas accused the regional economic bloc of imposing inhumane sanctions aimed at reversing recent coups in their respective countries.
The joint statement, broadcast on state television in all three nations, asserted that the decision to withdraw was made in complete sovereignty, alleging that ECOWAS had deviated from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism after nearly 50 years of existence.
The juntas contended that ECOWAS, influenced by foreign powers, had become a threat to its member states and their populations.
ECOWAS, established in 1975 to promote economic integration in member states, is considered West Africa’s top political and regional authority.
The bloc has faced challenges in recent years as it strives to address coup incidents in the region and ensure the equitable distribution of natural resources.
The juntas did not provide details on how the withdrawal process would unfold, and neither has ECOWAS for the time being.
The regional bloc, which recognizes only democratic governments, has faced previous challenges to its authority, with its regional court ruling last year that juntas lack the power to act on behalf of their nations in place of elected governments.
This announcement follows a series of events that heightened political tensions in West Africa, including a coup in Niger last year. The three nations, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, have recently formed a security alliance and severed military ties with France and other European nations, turning to Russia for support.
The joint statement criticized ECOWAS for failing to assist the countries in addressing “existential” threats like terrorism, a common reason cited by their militaries for the coups. The juntas argued that ECOWAS sanctions, instead of improving their situations, have further weakened populations already affected by years of violence. The development adds a new layer of complexity to the evolving political landscape in West Africa.