Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso break away from key West African bloc

Author: Rachel Chason Source: The Washington Post
January 28, 2024 at 14:06
People in Niger's capital, Niamey, gather at a sit-in alongside the prime ministers of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to protest “foreign interference” in the Sahel region on Dec. 29. (Hamidou Moussa/Reuters)
People in Niger's capital, Niamey, gather at a sit-in alongside the prime ministers of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to protest “foreign interference” in the Sahel region on Dec. 29. (Hamidou Moussa/Reuters)

DAKAR, Senegal — Three nations in Africa’s Sahel region announced Sunday that they were leaving the area’s most important political and economic bloc, deepening a rift between those countries’ military juntas and other states in West Africa.

Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso issued a joint statement accusing the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, of kowtowing to “foreign powers” and said their withdrawal from the union was effective immediately.

Col. Amadou Abdramane, spokesman for Niger’s junta, read from the statement in a televised address. ECOWAS, he said, had turned away from “the ideals of its founding fathers” and failed to support the three countries, which are wracked by Islamist insurgencies, in their “existential fight against terrorism and insecurity.”

The three countries formed a mutual defense pact in September. But Sunday’s announcement marked an escalation in tensions that soared last year following a military coup in Niger — the last of the three countries to lose their democratic governments.

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