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African Military Juntas Joining Together: 'Attack on One of Us Will Be an Attack on All'

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The coup-hit nations of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso on Saturday ruled out returning to the West Africa regional bloc whose division could further jeopardize regional efforts to revert coups and curb the violence spreading across the region.

Military junta leaders of the three countries made the announcement during their first summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, after their withdrawal from the West Africa bloc known as ECOWAS in January.

They also accused the bloc of failing its mandate and pledged to consolidate their union — the Alliance of Sahel States — created last year amid fractured relations with neighbors.

The nearly 50-year-old ECOWAS has become “a threat to our states,” Niger’s military leader Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani said. “We are going to create an AES of the peoples, instead of an ECOWAS whose directives and instructions are dictated to it by powers that are foreign to Africa,” Tchiani said.

The meeting of the three countries that border one another comes a day before an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria where other heads of state in the region are to meet. Analysts say the two meetings show the deep division in ECOWAS, which has emerged as the top political authority for its 15 member states before the unprecedented decision of the three countries to withdraw their membership.

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Despite efforts by ECOWAS to keep its house united, the alliance between the three military junta-led countries will most likely remain outside the regional bloc as tensions continue to grow, said Karim Manuel, an analyst for the Middle East and Africa with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“Attempts at mediation will likely continue nonetheless, notably led by Senegal’s new administration, but it will not be fruitful anytime soon,” Manuel said.

Formed in September last year, the Alliance of Sahel States has been touted by the three countries as a tool to also seek new partnerships in countries like Russia and cement their independence from former colonial ruler France, who they accused of interfering with ECOWAS.

At the meeting in Niamey, Burkina Faso’s leader Capt. Ibrahim Traoré reaffirmed those concerns and accused foreign countries of exploiting Africa.

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“Westerners consider that we belong to them and our wealth also belongs to them. They think that they are the ones who must continue to tell us what is good for our states. This era is gone forever; our resources will remain for us and our populations,” Traoré said.

“The attack on one of us will be an attack on all the other members,” Mali’s leader Col. Assimi Goïta also said.

At a meeting of regional ministers on Thursday, Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, said the bloc has not received “the right signals” about any possible return of the three states despite lifting coup-related sanctions that they blamed for leaving.

But it is not only the three countries that are angry at ECOWAS, observers say. The bloc has lost goodwill and support from West African citizens so much that some were celebrating the recent spate of coups in the region where citizens have complained of not benefiting from rich natural resources in their countries.

For the most part, ECOWAS is seen as representing only the interests of the leaders and not that of the masses, according to Oge Onubogu, director of the Africa Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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