Demonstrators flooded the streets of Bamako on Thursday, rallying in support of the Malian junta’s decision to withdraw the country from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The protesters, predominantly young people and schoolchildren, brandished placards bearing slogans such as “Down with ECOWAS. Long live AES.”
The Alliance of Sahel States (AES), a newly formed organization including Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, was highlighted as an alternative by the protesters. This move comes after months of escalating tensions between the three coup-affected nations and ECOWAS, reaching a boiling point with the sudden announcement of their withdrawal on Sunday.
In a joint statement, the juntas of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso accused ECOWAS of a lack of support and denounced the “illegitimate, inhumane, and irresponsible” coup-related sanctions imposed on them. Notably, ECOWAS released a statement asserting that it had not been formally notified of the decision to withdraw.
This unprecedented move marks the first instance in ECOWAS’s nearly 50 years of existence that member states are withdrawing in such a manner. Analysts have expressed concern, considering this development as a severe blow to the regional bloc and a potential threat to the stability of the West African region.
Critics, including many of Mali’s politicians and former officials, view the junta’s decision as a step backward in terms of regional integration. The move has sparked widespread disapproval within the country, raising questions about the implications for Mali’s diplomatic relationships and its standing in the international community.
As the situation unfolds, the repercussions of Mali’s exit from ECOWAS are expected to reverberate across the region, casting a shadow over the bloc’s ability to address security threats and maintain regional cohesion.