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Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso Leave West African Economic Alliance

On January 28, 2024, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso had a “Brexit” moment when they left ECOWAS, a major West African economic alliance.

Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have withdrawn from the major West African economic alliance ECOWAS. They were previously suspended from it due to the military juntas and coups that have arisen in these governments, which was done in hopes that they would return to democratic rule. These military dictatorships have been in power since May 2021 in Mali, January 2022 in Burkina Faso, and July 2023 in Niger.

The emblem of ECOWAS.

The three countries have stated it was a “sovereign decision” to leave ECOWAS. They were also one of the group’s founding members in 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, though the only country to join the Economic Community of West African States after 1975 was Cape Verde in 1977.

The three governments have all said on television that they had decided to leave as the bloc had “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of pan-Africanism.” They then stated that ECOWAS was “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, and has become a threat to member states and peoples,” adding that the alliance had failed at helping suppress the jihadist violence in the nations.

Tensions between the juntas and ECOWAS have already been high since their coups took place, further amplified by their suspension and now withdrawal. However, ECOWAS has made a statement in response to the one made on January 28. They said that the three nations were “important members of the Community” and that the economic alliance “remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse”.

A map showing ECOWAS, including suspended members in light green and member states in dark green.

Though the military juntas have already declared them leaving the bloc, according to the Treaty of Lagos, member states must give written notice a year in advance in order to make an official withdrawal, and during that time, abide by its rules and laws like any other member.

Even with suspension, sanctions, negotiations, and threats of military interventions, the military dictatorships are still firm in their belief that ECOWAS has been very influenced by foreign powers. The three countries have gone on to distance themselves from France, who used to control much of East and North Africa. They have also begun aligning themselves with Russia, and even forming a defense pact in September 2023 known as The Alliance of Sahel States.

Military leaders from the three countries have claimed that they want to restore security before holding elections to suppress jihadist insurgencies such as ones affiliated with al-Qaeda or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Nigerien military officials state that they want at least three years before they feel safe to hold elections. Mali had previously agreed to have civilian rule in February of 2024, though it has now been delayed to an unknown date. Burkina Faso is set to have elections in the summer, though they remain firm in their belief that fighting against insurgents is their highest priority.


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About the Contributor
Mikael Ronaque, Head of Department (World News)/Editor in Chief
Hello. I am Mikael, Head of Department of World News. I am a 7th grader at the time of writing and I edit/publish articles on this website. I am an Indian. I aim to write about various things around the world with as little bias as possible.

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