In a bid to bolster regional security, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, three West African Sahel nations currently under military juntas, signed a security pact on Saturday. The agreement commits these countries to come to each other's aid in the event of rebellion or external aggression.
These Sahel nations are grappling with the challenge of containing Islamic insurgents with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Additionally, their relations with neighbouring countries and international partners have been strained due to recent coups.
The latest coup in Niger has further strained relations, especially with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc that has threatened to use force to reinstate constitutional rule in the country.
As part of the pact, Mali and Burkina Faso have pledged to support Niger if it comes under attack. The charter of the pact, known as the Alliance of Sahel States, states that an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any contracted party will be considered an aggression against all parties. It allows for individual or collective assistance, including the use of armed force.
Mali's junta leader, Assimi Goita, announced the pact's signing, stating, “I have today signed with the Heads of State of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako-Gourma charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States, with the aim of establishing a collective defence and mutual assistance framework,” via his social media account.
All three nations were once part of the France-supported G5 Sahel alliance joint force, initiated in 2017 to combat Islamist groups in the region.
However, Mali has since exited the organization following a military coup. Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum declared the force “dead” in May of the previous year after Mali's departure.
Relations between France and these Sahel states have deteriorated in the wake of the coups. France has withdrawn its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso and is engaged in a tense standoff with the junta that seized power in Niger.
The junta has called for the withdrawal of French troops and its ambassador, a demand France has not recognized.
Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo. Editing by Mariam Aminu.