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Juntas walk out of Ecowas claiming it's under western control

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have united in a symbolic move to reject the economic community after their own suspension from the group following their military coups

The coordinated move by Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to leave the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is the latest blow to Ecowas's credibility and the growing political instability in the region.

The three military juntas said that they had 'decide[d] in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal' from Ecowas, in a joint statement published on 28 January, adding that Ecowas 'under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its population'.

The move is symbolic in the sense that each country had been suspended following their respective military coups. In legal terms, the process of withdrawing from Ecowas takes up to one year.

Ecowas and the wider international community have struggled to adapt to military coups in Mali in 2020 and 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Niger in 2023. In response, Ecowas suspended all three countries and imposed heavy sanctions on Niger and Mali. But the bloc's failure to make good on initial threats of military intervention to restore ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger underscored the divisions among the region's leaders.

At a hearing in the European Parliament last week, EU lawmakers were told that both the EU and national governments would have to act quickly and decisively to build relations with the military leaders or face irrelevance in the Sahel.

'Just following the lead of Ecowas is not going to work either,' said Ulf Laessing, Director of the Regional Sahel Programme at Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Mali, adding that the organisation had lost credibility in the eyes of many Africans.

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