Mali says it will not respect ECOWAS treaty’s withdrawal notice period

Mali said on Wednesday that it would not wait a year to leave the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as is required by the bloc’s treaty.

Mali and its neighbours Niger and Burkina Faso, all run by military juntas, announced last month that they were immediately leaving ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc, reversing decades of regional integration.

All three formally notified the ECOWAS Commission of their decisions to leave the bloc in written notices dated Jan. 29, which according to the treaty means that they would still be bound by membership until one year from that date.

In a statement posted online, Mali’s foreign ministry said that ECOWAS had violated its own texts by closing its borders to Mali when it imposed sanctions on the military regime.

“Consequently, the Government of the Republic of Mali is no longer bound by the deadline constraints mentioned in Article 91 of the Revised Treaty,” the statement said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reiterates the irreversible nature of the decision of the government of Mali to withdraw without delay from ECOWAS due to the violation by the organization of its own texts, as well as the other legitimate reasons,” it said.

There was no immediate response from ECOWAS, or from Niger and Burkina Faso on whether they would do the same. ECOWAS has scheduled a meeting for Feb. 8 to discuss the situation.

The three countries’ departure is a blow to the 15-nation bloc, which had been trying to negotiate with their military leaders to restore democracy.