Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger said Sunday they are leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) immediately.
All three countries are currently led by militaries that seized power from civilian leaders.
“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 a statement.
The three countries were suspended from ECOWAS following the coups, and relations between them and the regional bloc have deteriorated for months.
“The organization notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity,” Abdramane added.
Last year, they withdrew from an international force known as the G5 that was set up to fight Islamists in the Sahel region, forming their own so-called Alliance of Sahel States (AES).
Tension between Juntas and ECOWAS
At a summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja in December, West African leaders demanded a “short” period of transition toward civilian rule in coup-hit Niger before they would ease economic sanctions on the country.
Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in July 2023, and the junta said it would take three years to return to civilian rule.
In Mali’s case, civilian rule was last in place before the first of two coups, in August 2020. Burkina Faso’s elected government was ousted in 2022.