West African bloc accuses members of breaching exit rule
The military governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger failed to comply with the rules in their decision to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc said on Thursday, calling for dialogue to resolve issues among the parties.
ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray made the comments at a mediation and security council meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where the exit notice of the three member states was discussed alongside an electoral crisis in Senegal.
Late last month, military-ruled Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger jointly announced their exit from the 15-nation regional political and economic alliance that allows visa-free travel among members. The three former French colonies accused the bloc, which has long pressed them to restore democratic rule, of serving foreign interests and posing a threat to their countries. They also claim ECOWAS violated its own principles by imposing harsh sanctions, including border closures, in response to the coups.
While member states are required to give one-year’s written notice prior to their withdrawal from ECOWAS, the coup leaders in Ouagadougou, Bamako, and Niamey have stressed that they want to leave the union without delay. Mali and Niger said in separate statements on Wednesday that they are “no longer bound by the deadline constraints” in the ECOWAS treaty, claiming the authority itself has breached the pact.
In an exclusive interview with RT last week, Nigerian lawyer Daniel Bwala said the withdrawal of the three landlocked countries will have a significant impact on cross-border trade and movement between them and the remaining members of the bloc. Andrei Maslov, head of the Center for African Studies at Russia’s Higher School of Economics, believes that the exit would give them more decision-making power.
However, on Thursday, ECOWAS Commission President Touray described the announcement to quit the bloc as a “hasty decision” by the military regimes with no substantive reasons provided.
“The three member states have not really reflected on the implications of this decision on citizens,” Touray stated.
Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, chairman of the ECOWAS mediation and security council, told reporters after the Abuja meeting that the bloc wants the coup leaders to reconsider their exit intentions as it would cause more hardship for their citizens.
“That is why we continue to urge those three countries to remain... And ECOWAS is going to redouble its efforts towards diplomacy, towards dialogue, towards reconciliation,” Tuggar said.