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Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso quit ECOWAS, testing regional unity

Yoopya with Reuters

LAGOS, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Defying pressure by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore constitutional rule, junta leaders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso said on Sunday they were quitting the regional bloc.

The decision is a blow to regional integration after the bloc suspended the three countries following military takeovers.

Here is a summary of the situation:

WHY DID THE THREE COUNTRIES LEAVE THE BLOC?

The juntas said in a joint statement that ECOWAS had drifted from the ideals of its “founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and accused the bloc of failing to assist in their fight against Islamist insurgents and ending insecurity.

ECOWAS has imposed a raft of economic, political and financial sanctions on the three in a bid to force them to return to constitutional order, but that has only hardened their position.

The juntas called the sanctions illegal and inhumane.

CAN A MEMBER STATE LEAVE ECOWAS?

Under Article 91 of the ECOWAS Treaty, a member state can only withdraw its membership after giving a written one-year notice and abides by its provisions during that period. It is unclear for now if the three intend to do so.

WHAT WOULD BE THE IMPACT

Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are landlocked countries that depend on ports in their ECOWAS neighbours for imports and exports. Leaving the bloc could see an increase in tariffs and could impact the free movement of their citizens and financial flows within the rest of the bloc.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT

ECOWAS, headquartered in Nigerian capital Abuja, could call an emergency summit to discuss the withdrawal but may not have the leverage to stop them leaving.

The decision to depart is seen as a major test for current ECOWAS chair Nigeria, whose President Bola Tinubu has sought to re-assert the country’s position as the dominant regional power.

ECOWAS, which has been trying to negotiate with the Niger junta leaders, has previously said it was ready to deploy troops to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.

The bloc is yet to carry out its threat.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Bate Felix and David Holmes

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Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso quit ECOWAS, testing regional unity