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B/Faso, Mali, Niger form new regional alliance

Junta-run Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have finalised plans to form a confederation after turning their backs on former colonial ruler France to seek closer…

Junta-run Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have finalised plans to form a confederation after turning their backs on former colonial ruler France to seek closer ties with Russia.

Their foreign ministers met Friday in Niger’s capital Niamey to agree on a text establishing the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).

“The objective was to finalise the draft text relating to the institutionalisation and operationalisation of the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES),” said Niger Foreign Minister Bakary Yaou Sangare as he read the final statement late Friday.

He said the text would be adopted by the heads of state of the three countries at a summit, without specifying the date.

“We can consider very clearly, today, that the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) has been born,” Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said after meeting General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of Nigerien military regime.

The third foreign minister at the meeting was Burkina Faso’s Karamoko Jean-Marie Traore.

The Sahel region has been subject to deadly jihadist violence for years, which they accused France of not being able to curb.

The three countries said late January they were quitting The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which they said was under French influence, to create their own regional grouping.

The three governments said it was a “sovereign decision” to withdraw from ECOWAS.

They were also founding members of the bloc, first established in 1975.

In a joint statement – that was read out on state broadcasters in the three countries – they said ECOWAS had “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism.”

It goes on to say that ECOWAS “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to member states and peoples,” adding that the bloc had failed to help them tackle the jihadist violence in their countries.

Relations between the bloc and the three countries were tense after military coups took place in Niger in July, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Mali in 2020.

ECOWAS had called on all three countries to return to civilian rule.

As part of efforts to bring them back to the regional bloc, ECOWAS has since lifted almost all the sanctions imposed on the three countries.

We won’t stop them – ECOWAS

Meanwhile, ECOWAS has said it won’t stop the trio from forming a new group.

Abdel-Fatau Musah, Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS, said during a programme tagged: “Reducing vulnerabilities through partnerships – a stakeholders’ engagement on regional defence and security perspectives” organised by the European Union in conjunction with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in Abuja on Wednesday that ECOWAS wants the three countries back.

While highlighting other small groups within ECOWAS, he said the trio could form their new group but should remain in ECOWAS, describing the region as a big community.

The three military-led West African nations in January announced their immediate withdrawal from the regional bloc, accusing the body of becoming a threat to its members.

But Musah said: “ECOWAS’s position is that we want these countries back into the community and we are doing everything to get them back.”

 

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