Last month, Niger’s military leaders, who seized power in a military coup on July 26, formed a military alliance with neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali. The agreement allows Mali and Burkina Faso to provide military support to Niger in the event of a military intervention against the West African nation.
The military leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger on Saturday signed a mutual defense pact, ministerial delegations from the three Sahel countries announced in Mali’s capital Bamako.
The Liptako-Gourma Charter establishes the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita posted on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.
Its aim is to “establish an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations,” he wrote.
“I have signed today with the leaders of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako Gourma Charter, establishing the Alliance of Sahel States to create an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our people,” Goita said.
The Liptako-Gourma region — where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet — has been ravaged by terrorism in recent years.
“This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries,” Mali’s Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop told journalists.
“Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries.”
A terrorist insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 spread to Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
All three states were members of the France-supported G5 Sahel alliance joint force with Chad and Mauritania, launched in 2017 to tackle armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) groups.
All three countries have undergone coups since 2020, most recently Niger, where soldiers in July overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.
The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened to intervene militarily in Niger over the coup.
Mali and Burkina Faso quickly responded by saying that any such operation would be deemed a “declaration of war” against them.
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 terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and the Daesh 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 successionist 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.
Niger’s military rulers have asked France to withdraw its troops and its ambassador, as France has refused to recognise the new military authority.
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.