Mutual Defense Pact Signed by Mali Burkina Faso and Niger

 

On Saturday, military leaders from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger officially endorsed a mutual defense pact, as announced by ministerial delegations from these three Sahel nations in the capital city of Mali, Bamako.

The accord, known as the Liptako-Gourma Charter, establishes the Alliance of Sahel States, as declared by Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita on the platform formerly known as Twitter. Its primary objective is to “create a framework for collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations,” as stated in his message.

The Liptako-Gourma region, where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger converge, has suffered from jihadist violence in recent years.

Mali’s Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop informed journalists, “This alliance will involve both military and economic cooperation among the three countries,” emphasizing that their top priority is combating terrorism within their respective territories.

The jihadist insurgency, which originated in northern Mali in 2012, spread to Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015. Since 2020, all three nations have experienced coup d’├ętats, with the most recent one occurring in Niger, where military forces overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum in July.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened military intervention in Niger in response to the coup, to which Mali and Burkina Faso responded by warning that such an operation would be considered a “declaration of war” against them.

The mutual defense pact stipulates that the signatory nations must come to each other’s aid, including militarily, in the event of an attack on any of them. It 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.”

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Additionally, the charter obliges the three countries to work together to prevent or resolve armed rebellions.

Mali, apart from combating jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, has witnessed renewed hostilities from predominantly Tuareg armed groups in recent weeks. This escalation poses a challenge to the already stretched Malian army and raises questions about the junta’s claims of successfully improving the dire security situation.

The secessionist groups initiated a rebellion in 2012 before signing a peace agreement with the state in 2015. However, that accord is now largely considered ineffective.

The resurgence of military activity by these armed groups has coincided 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 forced out France’s anti-jihadist force, and in 2023, the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA. French troops were also withdrawn from Burkina Faso, while Niger’s coup leaders renounced several military cooperation agreements with France.