The withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the West African bloc ECOWAS is a “carefully considered decision” in response to hopes for “total sovereignty”, Burkina’s prime minister has said.
The three countries, which have shared tense ties with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since military coups, announced their decision to leave in a joint statement on Sunday.
- How ECOWAS will be affected as Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali exit bloc
- Burkina, Mali, Niger quit West African bloc ECOWAS
“This decision responds to legitimate expectations, concerns and aspirations of our people to see their countries go, in an irreversible way, towards their total sovereignty,” Burkinabe Prime Minister Appolinaire Joachimson Kyelem de Tambela said after a cabinet council late on Tuesday.
“It’s a carefully considered decision and (was) preceded by an indepth analysis of the functioning of the institution and of the possible consequences of the withdrawal,” he added.
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger were founding members of ECOWAS in 1975, but the bloc suspended all three following military coups that overthrew elected civilian governments.
It imposed heavy sanctions on Mali and Niger, which are still in force against Niamey.
The coups took place in Niger in July, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Mali in 2020.
“We know that it will not be without consequences for our states and their economies,” the Burkinabe premier said.
But he said they were convinced of being able to “create a viable, resilient economic space that is listening to the true aspirations of our populations”.
Grappling with jihadist violence and poverty, the military rulers of the three nations set up a mutual defence pact, the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) in September.
All three say they have formally notified ECOWAS of their withdrawal.
The Burkinabe prime minister said ECOWAS had been transformed into a “technocratic instrument” and criticised its “indifference” to the countries’ problems.
ECOWAS has said it wants “a negotiated solution to the political impasse” with all three nations.
Violence in Burkina Faso has left nearly 20,000 people dead since 2015 and more than two million internally displaced.