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Mali insists it won’t regard ECOWAS treaty’s withdrawal notice period

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In defiance of the bloc’s contract, Mali declared on Wednesday that it would not wait a year to exit the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Reversing decades of regional integration, Mali and its neighbouring junta-run countries, Niger and Burkina Faso, announced last month that they were leaving ECOWAS, the largest political and economic union in West Africa, immediately.

In formal notices dated January 29, all three of them informed the ECOWAS Commission of their decisions to exit the bloc. As per the terms of the treaty, this meant that they would remain bound by their membership for a duration of one year from that day.

According to Mali’s foreign ministry, when ECOWAS imposed sanctions on the military administration, it closed its borders to Mali, in violation of its own charter. and argued that “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.

ECOWAS, Niger, and Burkina Faso did not immediately respond when asked if they would follow suit. ECOWAS has called a conference to review the situation on Thursday, February 8.

The 15-nation bloc, which had been attempting to negotiate the restoration of democracy with their military leaders, has suffered a blow with the departure of these three countries.

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South Africa wants Israel’s ‘occupation’ of Palestinian territories declared illegal

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South Africa is back at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Israel’s role in the ongoing Hamas war. On Tuesday, Johannesburg asked the World Court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal.

South Africa argued that the proclamation would help efforts to reach a settlement as its representative opened the second day of hearings at the court in the Hague.

Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands told the judges that “a clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement.”

Palestinian delegates asked the U.N.’s top court on Monday to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, adding that the advisory opinion of the court might help bring about a durable peace and a two-state solution.

Israel sent a written statement claiming that an advisory opinion would be detrimental to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, despite not being present at the hearings.

The most recent wave of violence in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7, has exacerbated the region’s long-standing grievances and harmed attempts to find a peaceful solution.

The ICJ’s fifteen-member panel was tasked with “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

It is anticipated that the judges will take about half a year to respond to the request, which also asks them to evaluate the implications of the occupation’s legal standing.

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Tunisia: Jailed opposition leader Ghannouchi begins hunger strike

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Embattled Tunisian opposition leader, Rached Ghannouchi, who has been a political prisoner since April, has begun a hunger strike in support of other opposition activists who are fasting in protest and calling for their immediate release.

Ghannouchi had threatened to go on a hunger strike in September, and a group of opposition lawyers representing him confirmed the strike had finally begun on Monday.

The 82-year  the leader of the main opposition group Ennahda and a ferocious opponent of President Kais Saied, was imprisoned last year on allegations of inciting violence against law enforcement and scheming to undermine national security.

In a different case earlier this month, a judge found him guilty of taking outside funding and sentenced him to three years in prison.

The lawyers said in a statement that “While he is fighting the ’empty stomach’ battle, Ghannouchi calls on Tunisians to adhere to a democratic Tunisia that includes everyone on the basis of freedom … and the independence of the judiciary.”

An indefinite hunger strike was launched this week by six opposition leaders who were detained during a crackdown last year in protest of their detention without charge or trial and in demand of their prompt release. The jailed leaders, Jawher Ben Mbarak, Rida Belhaj, Abdelhamid Jalasi, Ghazi Chaouachi, Issam Chabbi, and Khayam Turki, were taken into custody on charges of allegedly arranging an attack on state security.

President Saied has been adamant about suppressing dissenting opinions in the nation ever since taking office. In 2023, over 20 political figures were detained, including Ghannouchi, on suspicion of trying to compromise national security.

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