The military leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger on Saturday signed a mutual defence pact, ministerial delegations from the three Sahel countries announced in Mali’s capital Bamako.
The Liptako-Gourma Charter has paved the way for the establishment of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), as disclosed by Mali’s junta leader, Assimi Goita, on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The primary objective of the Liptako-Gourma Charter is to “create a framework for collective defence and mutual assistance to benefit our respective populations,” he expressed.
Liptako-Gourma region, where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger converge, has been profoundly affected by jihadist activities in recent years.
Mali’s Defense Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, informed the press that “This alliance will blend both military and economic efforts among the three nations. Our top priority is combating terrorism within our borders.”
The emergence of a jihadist insurgency in northern Mali in 2012 subsequently spilt over into Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
All three countries have experienced political coups since 2020, with the most recent one occurring in Niger, where military personnel seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum in July.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has issued warnings about potential military intervention in Niger due to the coup.
Mali and Burkina Faso responded swiftly, asserting that such an operation would be considered a “declaration of war” against them.
The mutual defence pact, as outlined in the charter signed on Saturday, obligates the signatories to provide assistance to one another, including military assistance, in the event of an attack on any of them.
It explicitly states that “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.”
The charter also binds the three nations to collaborate in preventing or resolving armed rebellions.
In addition to combating jihadist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, Mali has recently faced renewed hostilities from primarily Tuareg armed factions.
This surge in conflict poses a significant challenge to an already overstretched military and raises questions about the junta’s claims of having improved the dire security situation.
In 2012, separatist groups initiated a rebellion in Mali before signing a peace agreement with the government in 2015. However, this agreement is now widely considered defunct.
The resurgence of military activity by these armed groups coincides with a series of deadly attacks, primarily attributed to the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance known as the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
In 2022, Mali’s junta ousted France’s anti-jihadist force, and in 2023, they expelled the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.
French troops have also been withdrawn from Burkina Faso, while the leaders of the coup in Niger have renounced several military cooperation agreements with France.