The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged the junta-led governments of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali to reconsider their decision to withdraw from the regional political and economic alliance. The bloc emphasized the potential hardships such a move would impose on the citizens of these countries.
The announcement of withdrawal came jointly from the self-appointed military leaders of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali on Jan. 28, following pressure from ECOWAS to restore constitutional order after a series of coups. ECOWAS has been struggling to combat a decline in democracy in West Africa, which began with a military takeover in Mali in 2020.
ECOWAS convened its mediation and security council in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to address this issue, along with the electoral crisis in Senegal. The postponement of a presidential vote in Senegal to December has sparked public outcry and international concern.
Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, chairman of the council, expressed concern that the withdrawal of the juntas would exacerbate hardships for the citizens of the three countries. He reaffirmed ECOWAS's commitment to diplomacy, dialogue, and reconciliation in resolving the situation.
Before the talks, ECOWAS Commission President Omar Touray criticized the juntas' decision as hasty and accused them of failing to follow the rules for withdrawing from the bloc. However, he did not specify which withdrawal conditions had been ignored. According to ECOWAS protocols, member states wishing to withdraw must provide a written one-year notice.
The juntas announced their intention to leave “without delay,” citing their belief that they were not bound by treaty terms. This abrupt departure increases the likelihood of a complicated disentanglement from the region's trade and services flows, valued at nearly $150 billion a year.
In response to ECOWAS's sanctions, including border closures, the juntas accused the bloc of violating its own texts. The swift withdrawal also raises concerns for the millions of nationals from the three countries who have settled in neighboring states, as ECOWAS allows visa-free travel and the right to work.
ECOWAS officials acknowledged the complexities of undoing the integration achieved over the years and emphasized the need for more than just verbal announcements to address the situation.
Regarding Senegal's election postponement, ECOWAS described it as a threat to regional peace and stability, although specific details of the discussions on this matter were not disclosed.