After coups, West African nations hurry to leave the regional bloc that opposed military takeovers

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The coup-hit nations of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are in haste to quit West Africa’s regional bloc without following its rules of exit, the body said Thursday as its ministers met to deliberate on growing division and political tension in the region.

At the ministerial meeting in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, the bloc known as ECOWAS faulted claims made by the countries’ juntas that their unprecedented decision to withdraw their membership was because of the coup-related sanctions the bloc imposed on their countries instead of supporting their development and peace efforts.

The three juntas announced late last month that they were quitting ECOWAS after the coups they staged soured ties with the bloc and international partners.

It’s the first time in the bloc’s nearly 50 years of existence that its members have withdrawn in such a manner. Analysts say it’s an unprecedented blow to the group that could threaten efforts to return democracy and help stabilize the increasingly fragile region.

The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, told reporters at the meeting that the countries’ “hasty decision” did not follow the requirements stated by the association’s protocol, including a one-year notice period before such a process could be completed.

“More importantly, the three member states have not really reflected on the implications of this decision on the citizens,” Touray said.

Separately, senior government officials in the junta-led countries on Wednesday dismissed possible talks with ECOWAS over the issue, further diminishing any hopes of dialogue to resolve the crisis.

While Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country is going ahead with the withdrawal plan “without delay,” Mali’s foreign affairs minister Abdoulaye Diop accused the regional body of partiality and failing to act in other countries where democracy is being violated.”

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