In a significant move aimed at bolstering security in the Sahel region, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have signed a mutual defence pact known as the Alliance of Sahel States.
The agreement, signed on Saturday, is designed to provide collective defence and mutual assistance among the three nations in the face of potential threats, such as armed rebellion or external aggression.
According to the charter, any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one of the signatory countries will be considered an act of aggression against all three parties, binding them to assist each other, including militarily, in the event of an attack.
The pact also commits the nations to collaborate on preventing or resolving armed rebellions.
“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,” Mali’s military leader Assimi Goita announced.
The Liptako-Gourma region, where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger converge, has witnessed armed rebellion in recent years, making this pact a significant step towards addressing the security challenges in the region.
Mali’s Defence Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, explained that the alliance would involve a combination of military and economic efforts among the three countries, with a primary focus on combating terrorism in the Sahel region.
The Sahel region has been plagued by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIS) for several years.
All three nations were previously members of the G5 Sahel alliance joint force, supported by France and also including Chad and Mauritania. This joint force was established in 2017 to combat armed groups operating in the Sahel region.
However, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have all experienced military coups since 2020, impacting regional stability.
Niger’s most recent coup in July led to tensions with ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc, which threatened military intervention. Mali and Burkina Faso responded by stating that any such operation would be considered a “declaration of war.”
Furthermore, France’s relations with the three Sahel states have deteriorated since the coups. France withdrew its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso and is currently in a tense standoff with the military authorities in Niger. The situation has added complexity to regional security efforts.
In recent weeks, Mali has witnessed a resurgence of hostilities involving predominantly Tuareg armed groups, which threatens a fragile 2015 peace agreement in the country.
The security landscape in the Sahel remains a complex challenge, requiring concerted efforts by regional and international actors to address the ongoing instability.