African nation criticizes move by neighbors to leave regional bloc
Nigeria has spoken out against a decision by the military governments of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In a statement on Monday, the Nigerian Foreign Ministry warned that the “unelected” leaders of the three West African countries, who took power in coups, were engaging in actions that will undermine the freedom of their people.
“Nigeria has worked sincerely and in good faith to reach out to all members of the ECOWAS family to resolve the difficulties being faced. It is now clear that those seeking to quit the community do not share that same good faith,” the ministry said.
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, which recently formed the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) with a commitment to defend each other from security threats, announced plans to leave ECOWAS on Sunday. The three military governments accused the West African political and economic bloc of posing a threat to their sovereignty by serving as a tool for foreign powers.
The 15-nation authority has declared that it does not recognize the military-led regimes in Ouagadougou, Bamako, and Niamey, and has imposed sanctions in an effort to force the coup leaders to transition to democratic rule.
On Sunday, the three former French colonies, which have all severed military ties with Paris, said they were disappointed with ECOWAS for imposing “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane, and irresponsible” measures against them. The military rulers have repeatedly justified their seizure of power by citing the civilian governments’ failures to fight jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region. The coup leaders have also accused ECOWAS of failing to support them in combating the region’s decade-long jihadist violence, instead punishing them when they chose to take control of “their own destiny.”
While ECOWAS has not provided a detailed response to the withdrawal decision, Nigeria, the current chair of the political and economic bloc, has defended the alliance, claiming that it has “worked to promote peace, prosperity, and democracy” in the region for nearly 50 years.
“Nigeria remains open for engagement with Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger so that all the people of the region can continue to enjoy the economic benefits and democratic values that ECOWAS embraces,” the Foreign Ministry stated.
ECOWAS announced earlier on Sunday that it had yet to receive “formal notification” from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regarding their membership withdrawal. On Monday, Ouagadougou and Bamako said they had sent a formal notice to the regional authority about their decision.