NIAMEY/BAMAKO: Three West African junta-led states Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso said on Sunday they are immediately leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic bloc that has been urging them to return to democratic rule.

The decision by the three countries, announced in a joint statement read out on Niger national television, is a blow to the bloc’s regional integration efforts after it suspended the three countries following military takeovers.

Since the coups, and despite the sanctions, negotiations and threats of military intervention, the military leaders have failed to provide a clear time table to return the countries to constitutional rule.

Instead, they have hardened their rhetoric against the bloc and accused it of being influenced by external powers. The three countries have also cut military and cooperation ties with former colonial master France, and turned to Russia for security support.

The three military leaders in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, have argued that they want to restore security before organising elections as the three Sahel nations struggle contain insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

“After 49 years, the valiant peoples of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regretfully and with great disappointment observe that the (ECOWAS) organization has drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” Colonel Amadou Abdramane, Niger junta spokesman, said in the statement.

“The organization notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity,” Abdramane added.

It is unclear for now how the decision by juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali will impact the 15-member regional bloc where goods and citizens move freely.


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