As in most regions of the world, alliances mean everything. In West Africa, the past 50 years have seen relative peace and a sense of “pan-Africanism” from a coalition of 15 nations, together known as the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS.
But on Sunday, three nations announced an “immediate withdrawal” from the bloc.
In a joint statement read on state television in all three nations, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso made it clear they would no longer be part of the coalition.
According to them, when the bloc was founded 50 years ago, it had good intentions, intentions it has now wandered from. As such, the nations can no longer, in good conscience, be affiliated with it.
The nations also allege that the group, “under the influence of foreign powers,” has ended up “betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure.”
Specifically, the three nations have a problem with how ECOWAS has failed to reverse a number of coups taking place in the nations that have left citizens complaining of not being able to benefit from the rich natural resources in their lands.
As Oge Onubogu of the Africa Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank says, the group has been increasingly seen as only representing its leaders and the rich rather than the people.
So, the juntas (national representatives to ECOWAS) from those nations have said they will cut ties.
However, this also means that they are cutting ties with France and other European nations traditionally involved in the power structure in West Africa. Instead, as Sunday’s announcement confirms, it means the nations are turning to Russia.
Suffice it to say, this has some rather scary world implications…