The Coup Leaders in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have struck a Pact for Mutual Protection
The military junta-ruled African countries of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso signed a security pact pledging to come to each other's aid in the event of rebellion or external aggression.
This comes less than two months after Niger became the latest country to overthrow an elected government in a coup. Since then, relations between the three countries and the others in the regional West African bloc ECOWAS have been looming over the possibility of a military intervention by the African Union in the country, which was an important ally of the West in controlling migration and fighting terrorism.
The pact, seen by Reuters, says that "any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more parties to the treaty will be considered aggression against the other parties." It says that other countries will help individually or collectively, including by using armed force.
On "X", known until recently as "Twitter", the leader of Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita, explained that the document creates a "framework for collective defense and mutual aid" from which the population will benefit.
The Alliance of Sahel States - as the charter is known - builds on assurances from Mali and Burkina Faso that they would consider any attack by ECOWAS (currently chaired by Nigeria) on Niger as a threat to themselves as well. Talk of intervention in the West African bloc gave way to last-ditch attempts at talks late last month, but the idea has not been abandoned.
The three countries have been trying for years to rein in jihadist groups, from branches of al-Qaeda and Islamic State to Boko Haram in southern Niger; the military came to power in all three with the belief that they could better deal with the jihadist threat. Because of it, the former French colonies were part of the G5 Sahel alliance, within the framework of which Paris sent thousands of soldiers to control the groups.
France has withdrawn its forces from Mali and Burkina Faso, and Niger is requesting the same. Paris refuses to do so, as well as for its ambassador to leave. In Niger, the European country has a base with more than 1,100 soldiers.
The three countries also share a common border in the Liptako-Gourma region, through which the groups often operate. "Al Jazeera" quotes Malian Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop, who explained during a press conference: "Our priority is the fight against terrorism".
Even before the departure of French forces, Mali has been working with the Russian private military company "Wagner" in the fight against jihadists. Both there and in neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, however, there is no evidence that the juntas are achieving better results in these operations.
Last night, Mali announced that armed rebels had attacked an army camp in the southwest of the country: the attack was in the Lere region, far from the common border. Authorities say the attack was carried out by Tuareg rebels.
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