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Opportunistic Russia exploits deepening rifts in West Africa
29 January 2024
The rift in West Africa became more acute over the weekend after three Sahel countries currently ruled by military juntas announced that they were leaving ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States - the regional grouping of whom the three countries had been founding members in 1975.
Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso announced the move in a simultaneous announcement on Sunday.
"After 49 years, the valiant peoples of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger regretfully and with great disappointment observe that the (ECOWAS) organization has drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," Colonel Amadou Abdramane, Niger junta spokesman, said in a statement.
The three countries were suspended from ECOWAS following the coups, and relations between them and the regional bloc have been deteriorating for months.
"The organization notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity," Abdramane added. Meanwhile, in a separate development Burkina Faso says it has received 25,000 tonnes of free wheat from Russia.
Confirming the news on Friday, one minister called the delivery a "priceless gift".
Ties between Moscow and Ouagadougou have been strengthening since the military took power in two successive coups in 2022.
Last month Russia re-opened its embassy in Burkina Faso which had been closed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Burkina Faso has at the same time been distancing itself from former colonial power France, and last year it ordered its troops to leave.