On Saturday, September 16th, in a significant move to bolster regional security, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, three nations in the West African Sahel region, signed a mutual defense pact. This agreement, dubbed the Alliance of Sahel States, underscores their collective commitment to support one another against potential threats, be it from internal rebellions or external aggressions.
The three nations, each currently under the governance of military juntas, have been grappling with the menace of Islamist insurgents, notably those affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. This shared challenge has been further complicated by political upheavals, with each nation experiencing coups that have strained their diplomatic ties both regionally and internationally.
The Alliance of Sahel States charter firmly states, “Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracted parties will be considered an aggression against the other parties.” This clause ensures collective action to defend any member state facing aggression, even if it necessitates military intervention.
Mali’s junta leader, Assimi Goita, announced the signing of the Liptako-Gourma charter, which underpins the Alliance of Sahel States, on the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter. He emphasized the alliance’s objective to craft a framework for collective defense and mutual assistance, benefiting the populations of the member nations.
The Liptako-Gourma region, a junction where the frontiers of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger meet, has been a focal point of jihadist activities in recent years. Addressing this, Mali’s Defense Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, highlighted the alliance’s dual approach, merging both military and economic strategies among the three nations, with counter-terrorism as the paramount priority.
Historically, these states were integral members of the G5 Sahel alliance, a joint force buttressed by France, which also encompassed Chad and Mauritania. This force, initiated in 2017, was tasked with countering armed factions linked to extremist groups. However, political shifts, notably in Mali, led to a reevaluation of these alliances.
The relationship between France and the Sahel trio has been tense, especially after the coups. France has withdrawn its military presence from Mali and Burkina Faso and is currently navigating a delicate situation with Niger’s junta, which has sought the departure of French troops and the nation’s ambassador. Despite these challenges, the junta’s authority remains unrecognized by France.
The formation of the Alliance of Sahel States marks a pivotal step in regional cooperation and mutual defense among the Sahel nations. As they jointly navigate threats from extremist factions and political instability, this pact offers a beacon of hope for a more secure Sahel region.