Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States. Three states have described their intention to leave the organization as a sovereign decision. In a joint statement, written by their leaders was said that ECOWAS “has fallen under the influence of Western powers, betrayed its founding principles, and has become a threat to member states and their citizens.” Another reason for withdrawal presented by the leader was an accusation of ECOWAS of failing to help them solve problems related to the actions of radical Islamists.
Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger are countries that recently have fallen into the hands of military dictatorships after a series of coup d’etats. In the case of Mali, it has experienced not the first, but the third coup d’etat in 10 years. The last one took place in 2021 when the President of the Interim Government of Mali Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane resigned, and the military government took over.
Burkina Faso faced a coup d’etat in 2022 when the President of the Interim Government Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba was removed from his post by the military officer Ibrahim Traoré.
Niger experienced a coup d’etat in 2023 when former President Mohamed Bazoum was detained together with his wife and children by the representatives of the military junta led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani. The constitution of Niger was suspended, and the borders of the state were closed. The situation in the country was escalating, which caused the external response. ECOWAS announced an ultimatum to Nigeria saying that it would give only “one week for the new government to reinstate Bazoum” or international sanctions would be imposed.
ECOWAS was threatening even to use the force against the military junta in Niger. Consequently, when the deadline of the ultimatum passed, West African leaders started to spread the information about the “activation” and the “deployment” of a regional standby force to restore constitutional order in the coup-hit country. Despite the official announcement of the intervention plans in September 2023, and the official statement of the leader of the organization, who says “We’re ready, we have the resources, the equipment, and the political will”, no actual measures were taken. Furthermore, Burkina Faso and Mali threatened that in the event of invasion, both states will send their troops to support the government of Niger.
What means withdrawal from the ECOWAS to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger?
ECOWAS is a trading regional organization, which comprises 15 member states of the West Africa region. The withdrawal from it means more complications not only in trade but also in the partnership with the neighbors of these 3 states as ECOWAS promotes cooperation between member states. Above that ECOWAS serves a peacekeeping mission in the region to maintain political stability in the region and has already proven its sufficiency for 3 decades.
First time in the 1989 coup d’etat and later the civil war in Liberia, when the organization intervened with a 3000-man contingent and was present till the end of the war in 1996. Other ECOWAS interventions include Sierra Leone in 1997, Guinea Bissau in 1999, Cote d’Ivoire in 2003, Liberia in 2003, Mali in 2013, and Gambia in 2017. This draws us to the conclusion that ECOWAS plans for Niger’s intervention might be realized if it will be necessary with the support of another 12 member states.
However, the following facts should be taken into consideration. ECOWAS claims that it had not been notified about the decision of 3 member states to terminate their membership and the official ECOWAS protocol requires that withdrawal from the bloc takes up one year to be completed.
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