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West Africa Bloc ECOWAS Warns Of ‘Disintegration’ As Junta-Run Countries Form Breakaway Union

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has warned of the risk of “disintegration” in the region after three military-ruled countries announced their departure from the bloc to form a new union.

Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, all ruled by military juntas, have formed an “Confederation of Sahel States”, sparking concerns of political isolation, loss of funding, and disrupted freedom of movement.

The move comes after the three countries accused France of manipulating ECOWAS and not providing sufficient support for anti-jihadist efforts in the region.

ECOWAS leaders, gathered for a summit in Abuja on Sunday, urged dialogue to resolve the crisis, with Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye calling for reconciliation.

ECOWAS is already grappling with widespread jihadist violence, financial troubles, and challenges in deploying a regional force.

The withdrawal of the three countries would exacerbate these issues, according to the head of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray.

“The withdrawal of these countries risks political isolation, loss of millions of dollars in funding, and hampering freedom of movement.

“It would also worsen insecurity and disrupt the work of the long-proposed regional force. Our region is facing the risk of disintegration,” he said.

The ECOWAS Commission further highlighted the benefits of the bloc, including freedom of movement and a common market of 400 million people, which are under threat if the three countries leave.

He also warned that funding of economic projects worth over $500 million in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger could be stopped or suspended.

“Considering these benefits, it is evident that disintegration will not only disrupt the freedom of movement and settlement of people, but it will also worsen insecurity in the region,” Touray said at the summit in Abuja.

The juntas came to power in a series of coups over recent years and announced their intention to leave ECOWAS in January. They have shifted away from former colonial ruler France and expelled French troops, with Niger’s General Abdourahamane Tiani calling for a “community far removed from the stranglehold of foreign powers”.

“Our people have irrevocably turned their backs on ECOWAS,” Tiani said, rebuffing the bloc’s pleas to come back into the fold.

Niger’s ties with ECOWAS deteriorated following the July 2023 coup that brought Tiani to power, which saw the bloc impose sanctions and threatened to intervene militarily to restore ousted president Mohamedj Bazoum. The sanctions were lifted in February but relations remain bitter.

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