Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso’s military leaders ‘mean business’ – Senator Sani

The military leaders of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have announced their formal departure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), signaling a significant shift in regional alliances.

Former Kaduna Central Senator, Shehu Sani, commented on the development through his verified X handle on Saturday, emphasizing the seriousness of the trio’s decision.

Senator Sani, known for his outspoken views and activism, retweeted a photo of the three military leaders, which was posted by one Sy Marcus Herve Traore, with a succinct caption: “They mean business.”

The military leaders who assumed power through coups had on Saturday marked their divorce from ECOWAS, saying they have “turned their backs on” the regional bloc.

“Our people have irrevocably turned their backs on ECOWAS,” declared General Abdourahamane Tiani of Niger, addressing his counterparts at the summit’s opening. The mutual defense pact between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger was formalized in September, with their official departure from ECOWAS in January.

The departure was partly driven by accusations that Paris was manipulating ECOWAS and not providing sufficient support against jihadist threats. Tiani criticized ECOWAS for its “conspicuous lack of involvement” in counter-terrorism efforts, positioning the AES as a more effective regional body in this fight.

In a move away from their former colonial ruler, France, the three nations have expelled French anti-jihadist troops and sought alliances with Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which they describe as “sincere partners.”

The Burkinabe presidency indicated that the summit’s agenda would focus on “the fight against terrorism” and “the consolidation of cooperation” among the member states, all of which face severe jihadist violence.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS is set to convene a summit of its heads of state in Abuja, Nigeria, where relations with the AES will be a key topic of discussion.

The military leaders of the Sahel countries, who took power between 2020 and 2023, are meeting collectively for the first time. In mid-May, the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger met in Niamey to draft the text establishing their confederation, which is expected to be ratified at the current summit.

General Tiani welcomed his Burkinabe counterpart, Ibrahim Traore, to Niamey on Friday, followed by Malian Colonel Assimi Goita on Saturday, marking the beginning of a new phase in regional cooperation and defense.

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