The juntas of three Sahel countries (Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) sign a defensive alliance.
In Bamako, capital of Mali, the military junta installed after the double putsch of 2020 and 2021 is going through a particularly complicated period which is upsetting the plans it had initially established.
In question, the renewed activity in the ranks of the Tuareg separatists after ten years of a relatively well-monitored truce in the north of the country. A resumption which is also part of a surge in attacks attributed to the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Two distinct fronts which are shaking the positions of the military junta which, after having obtained the withdrawal – in progress – of Minusma (UN stabilization mission), after ten years of deployment, and the departure of French troops, finds itself alone on the front line (despite the presence of men from Wagner’s Russian militia) and shows itself incapable of keeping its security commitments. A failure very badly experienced by the local population who can only see the limits of the national troops.
Faced with this situation, the military in power who had announced their intention to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence with great fanfare were forced to reconsider their desire to celebrate. Colonel Goïta, inaugurated president after the second coup d’état of 2021, therefore finally ordered the government to allocate the funds planned for these festivities to “aid the victims of a series of recent attacks and their families” , according to the press release read at the end of the week by the government spokesperson.
Alone at the front
The ongoing withdrawal of Minusma forces, which must be completed by December 31, seems to have played a determining role in the return of the armed discontent of the separatist movements in the north of the country.
Indeed, gradually, the UN troops are transferring the management of their camps to the Malian authorities, which greatly displeases the Tuareg separatist movements who believe that these UN bases should come under their control. An unacceptable request for the Malian government which is the sole interlocutor of the UN authorities.
These emerging tensions are expected to further develop in the coming weeks. Indeed, by the end of the year Minusma must evacuate all its positions, including that of Kidal, a nerve center for the Tuareg movements.
For the military junta, no concessions possible. “The bases of Tessalit, Aguelhok, Kidal, we will take them,” promised the Prime Minister, Choguel Kokalla Maïga, during an intervention on state television this Wednesday evening after the Malian army announced that it had carried out a series of airstrikes against “terrorists” in the North, in the areas of Ber and Almoustarat. The separatists, for their part, responded by explaining that they had shot down a Malian army plane in Almoustarat.
Statements difficult to confirm, such as the number of victims in the fighting, still in the north of the country, in the garrison town of Bourem which fell into the hands of Tuareg insurgents for a few hours before the army managed to recapture it.
The two camps have provided contradictory reports, but each reports several dozen deaths.
The front of the juntas
It is in this very delicate context for the Malian military junta that a defensive alliance was signed this Saturday between the three Sahel countries which have installed military powers at their head.
Delegations from Burkina Faso and Niger were in Bamako this weekend to initial this Alliance of Sahel States (AES), called “Charter of Liptako-Gourma”.
Its goal is “to establish an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance”, explained on X (ex-Twitter) the head of the Mali junta, Assimi Goita.
The charter provides in particular that “any attack on the sovereignty and integrity of the territory of one or more contracting parties will be considered as an aggression against the other parties and will engage a duty of assistance and relief of all parties, of individually or collectively, including the use of armed force to restore and ensure security within the area covered by the Alliance”.
In view of the situation in northern Mali but also the general context in Niger where the junta which overthrew President Bazoum on July 26 is still under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), this charter is a way for the military in the region to try to unite and send a message of firmness throughout the region. Even if, according to Abdoulaye Diop, Malian Minister of Defense, “Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries.”