The West African states of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, have formed a defence alliance, according to Mali’s interim President, Colonel Assimi Goïta in a post on social media.
The three states are all ruled by military groups, following coups that have led to fears for the future of democracy in the region.
Mali’s leader on Saturday, announced the signing of a charter, establishing the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).
“The objective sought by the charter is the creation of an architecture of collective defence, and mutual support between the contracting parties,” the document said.
Under the charter, the parties pledge to fight terrorism and organized crime, it says. “Any violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more Contracting Parties shall be considered as aggression against the other Contracting Parties, and shall oblige all Contracting Parties to provide assistance and redress … including the use of armed force.”
Burkina Faso’s interim president, Ibrahim Traoré, and Niger’s de facto leader Abdourahmane Tchiani were also present at the signing of the document, photos released on Saturday showed.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have long struggled with Islamist terror groups, that carry out bloody attacks against civilians and increasingly control of the territory.
Meanwhile, all three nations have seen political turbulence, most recently, Niger, where the military took power in July. There was a coup in Burkina Faso last year, and Mali’s most recent coup was in 2021.
Mali and Burkina Faso sided with the country’s new leaders, after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military intervention to restore order, sparking instability in the region.
All three states are also pivoting away from former colonial power France, which previously provided military aid and anti-terror support.
Mali increasingly works with Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, to maintain order and fight terror.
The security situation is now seen as more precarious in the three nations. The number of attacks in Mali may grow, as the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA prepares to withdraw by the end of the year, and there is also the threat of a renewed conflict with the Tuareg, a separatist group.
Niger, the last democratic partner of the US and European states in the region, has also largely suspended cooperation with foreign partners since the coup.