Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger Sign 'Confederation' Treaty

The military regimes of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso on Saturday marked their divorce from the rest of West Africa, as they signed a treaty setting up a confederation between them

After breaking away from an established West African bloc, the military commanders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger signed a treaty during their first meeting in Niamey on Saturday, July 6. This marked the beginning of a new “confederation” between the three countries.

“Decided to take a step further towards greater integration between the member states” and “adopted a treaty establishing a confederation” were the words used in a statement released by the leaders of the three recent coup-takers.

The “Confederation of Sahel States”, which will use the acronym AES, will group some 72 million people.

Why have the three countries taken this step?

The three nations announced in January that they were leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), claiming that their previous colonial master, France, was manipulating the organization.

In an effort to increase their collaboration with Russia, all three nations have severed their military and defense ties with France.

“Our people have irrevocably turned their back on ECOWAS,” Niger’s military government chief, General Abdourahamane Tiani, declared at the start of the summit.

Buildup of the Break-up

Relations between ECOWAS deteriorated following a July 2023 coup that brought Tiani to power, when ECOWAS imposed sanctions and even threatened to intervene militarily to restore the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum.

The sanctions were lifted in February but relations between the two sides remain frosty.

ECOWAS is holding a leaders’ summit Sunday in Abuja where the question of relations with AES will be on the agenda.

The AES countries in March created a joint military force to combat the jihadist groups that regularly attack their territory.

Saturday they also talked about “mutualising” their approach to strategic sectors such as agriculture, water, energy and transport.

They also asked that indigenous languages be given greater prominence in local media.