West African bloc says it risks disintegration if junta-led states leave

By Ope Adetayo and Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Sunday the region risked disintegration and worsening insecurity after junta-led Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger made clear their intentions to leave the bloc by signing a confederation treaty.

The Alliance of Sahel States treaty, signed on Saturday, underscored the three countries’ determination to turn their backs on the 15-member ECOWAS, which has been urging them to return to democratic rule.

ECOWAS commission president Omar Touray said freedom of movement and a common market of 400 million people were some of the major benefits of the near 50-year-old bloc, but that these were under threat if the three countries left.

Funding of economic projects worth over $500 million in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger could also be stopped or suspended, Touray told an ECOWAS summit in Nigerian capital Abuja.

“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,” he said.

The three countries’ withdrawal will be a major blow to security cooperation particularly in terms of intelligence sharing and participation in the fight against terrorism, he added.

ECOWAS leaders gathered at the summit to discuss the implications of the treaty by the Alliance of Sahel States, whose juntas seized control in a series of coups in the three states in 2020-2023 and severed military and diplomatic ties with regional allies and Western powers.

A decision on a regional standby force to fight terrorism and a regional currency would also be made, Touray said.

(Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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