The military leaders of three West African countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – signed a mutual defense pact deal.
The junta leaders signed the Liptako-Gourma Charter, establishing the Alliance of Sahel States. The pact is named after the region where the three country’s borders meet.
Col. Assimi Goita, Mali’s junta leader, said in a statement, “I signed today with the heads of state of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako-Gourma Charter, establishing the Alliance of Sahel States with the objective of establishing an architecture of collective defense and assistance mutual for the benefit of our populations.”
The new pact calls for the three neighboring countries to come to the defense of each other.
All three are facing threats from jihadists.
Each of the countries has undergone coups since 2020.
The charter signed on Saturday binds the signatories to assist one another – including militarily – in the event of an attack on any one of them. “Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties shall be considered as an aggression against the other parties and shall give rise to a duty of assistance… including the use of armed force to restore and ensure security”, it states.
It also binds the three countries to work to prevent or settle armed rebellions. Mali has, in addition to fighting jihadists linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, seen a resumption of hostilities by predominantly Tuareg armed groups over the past week. The escalation risks testing an already stretched army as well as the junta’s claims that it has successfully turned around a dire security situation.
The secessionist groups had in 2012 launched a rebellion before signing a peace agreement with the state in 2015. But that accord is now generally considered moribund. The renewed military activity by those armed groups has coincided with a series of deadly attacks attributed mainly to the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
Mali’s junta pushed out France’s anti-jihadist force in 2022 and the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in 2023. French troops have also been pushed out of Burkina Faso, while Niger’s coup leaders have renounced several military cooperation agreements with France.
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