The African Union (AU) called for dialogue between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the junta-led countries of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, which have announced their intention to leave the bloc.
The trio’s decision to exit ECOWAS, announced on Sunday, is a setback for the bloc’s regional integration efforts, which were suspended following coups.
The AU had supported ECOWAS’s efforts to restore democracy.
“The Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat learned with deep regret of the announcement of the withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS,” the AU said in a statement.
He calls for combined efforts so that the irreplaceable unity of ECOWAS is preserved and African solidarity strengthened, and urged regional leaders to increase dialogue between the ECOWAS leadership and the three countries, stating that the AU was ready to assist.
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger’s foreign ministries formally informed the ECOWAS Commission of their decision to leave the bloc in written notices dated January 29.
According to the bloc’s treaty, member states that wish to withdraw must provide a written one-year notice. As a result, the decision to leave the 15-member bloc may take some time to implement, potentially opening the door for negotiations.
The trio’s stance on ECOWAS has sparked unrest throughout the region, where armies have struggled to contain Islamist militants since seizing power in several countries.