Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Jan. 28, issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a "sovereign decision" to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The three countries accused the bloc of failing to support their fight against "terrorism and insecurity," and imposing "llegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions." The statement also charged that ECOWAS has "drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," and is now "under the influence of foreign powers." (BBC News, Al Jazeera) This appears to be largely a veiled reference to France, with which all three countries have reduced or severed ties, although de facto bloc leader Nigeria is closer to the Anglo-American camp.
Regional NGO alliance the People's Coalition for the Sahel is demanding the immediate return alive of human rights defender Daouda Diallo, secretary general of Burkina Faso's Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC). The CISC announced Dec. 3 that shortly after Diallo left the passport office in Ouagadougou that afternoon, he was abducted by at least four unidentified men in civilian clothes. Diallo's CISC has been riasing the alarm about ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso under the military regimes that have been in power since a January 2022 coup.
The ruling junta in Niger has ended a military partnership with the EU, pulling the plug on a mission that provided training and equipment for Nigerien security forces battling jihadists. Authorities have also repealed a 2015 law—adopted under EU pressure—that sought to curb migration to Europe. The diplomatic rupture is linked to the EU's refusal to engage with the junta, which toppled the bloc's close partner, Mohamed Bazoum, in July. Russian officials have visited Niamey in recent days, signing documents to strengthen military cooperation. Russian support for other Sahelian armies has led to massive rights abuses, yet the EU's track record is hardly glowing. The bloc spent large sums on the Nigerien security forces but lacked programs to prevent army abuses—an oversight that played into the hands of jihadists. Its migration policies, meanwhile, resulted in Niamey criminalizing the economy of the northern smuggling hub of Agadez, all while endangering migrant lives.
Burkina Faso's humanitarian and security challenges are worsening as the country's junta-led government pursues an aggressive military campaign against jihadist armed groups, which have extended their control to around 40% of the national territory. The country has faced jihadist attacks since 2015, but fatalities and humanitarian needs have hit record highs since army Captain Ibrahim Traoré seized power from a different junta last year, and then began a "total war" against the insurgents.
Thirty-six years ago this week, Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, was assassinated in a coup. Some feel his legacy is being carried forward by the head of the country's current junta, Ibrahim Traoré. Like Sankara, Traoré seized power in his early 30s and has espoused strong anti-imperialist views. He has cut ties with former colonial ruler France, snubbed offers of Western military aid, and nominated a Sankara supporter as prime minister. At a commemoration this week in Ouagadougou, authorities announced that the capital city's Boulevard Charles de Gaulle will be renamed Boulevard Thomas Sankara.
Mali's military reportedly carried out air-strikes Aug. 29 against Tuareg militants in the desert north—an escalation that risks opening up another conflict front in the country, which is already embroiled in a long counterinsurgency war with jihadist rebels. The accusation was made by the Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015. The government claims to have struck jihadist positions in the Kidal region, but the CMA rebels charge that they were targeted. Two weeks earlier, the CMA also accused Malian forces and Russian Wagner Group mercenaries of attacking its followers in the Timbuktu region.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on July 12 said it is concerned about reports that hundreds of Burkinabé refugees fleeing to Ghana, including women and children, are being deported. For the past years, Burkina Faso has been experiencing widespread violence and displacement amid an insurgency by extremist groups. According to UNHCR, more than 17,500 Burkina Faso nationals have fled to neighboring countries, also including Niger, Mali, Benin, and Côte d’Ivoire, since January 2021 as a result of the ongoing conflict. Ghana is accused of having forcibly deported more than 500 Burkinabé seeking protection along the border this month. A video on Twitter showing expelled women and children sitting in a parking lot near the border has been widely circulated.