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Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso quit ECOWAS regional block

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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 three countries are also members of the eight-nation West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) that uses the West Africa CFA franc currency pegged to the Euro © Mena Today 

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.

According to the bloc's treaty, member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice. It is unclear for now if the three states have done so. The treaty say they must continue to abide by its provisions during the year-long period.

The three countries are also members of the eight-nation West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) that uses the West Africa CFA franc currency pegged to the Euro.

The monetary union, following decisions by ECOWAS leaders after the coups in Mali and Niger, had cut off their access to the regional financial market, and the regional central bank. It later restored Mali's access but Niger remains suspended.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo, Boureima Balima and Felix Onuah

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