Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have signed a trilateral defense agreement binding the three Sahel countries to assist one another in the event of a military attack on any one of them.
The agreement, known as the Liptako-Gourma Charter, was inked by the three states’ military leaders on Sept. 16 and according to Mali’s junta leader, Assimi Goita, it establishes the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).
“I have today signed with the heads of state of Burkina Faso and Niger, the Liptako-Gourma charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States, with the aim of establishing a collective defense and mutual assistance framework,” Goita said on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.
“This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries,” Mali’s Defense Minister Abdoulaye Diop told journalists.
“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,” the agreement stated.
All three former French colonies have been run by juntas since 2020 and the agreement came amid simmering anti-French sentiments across the three nations.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West Africa’s main regional bloc, has threatened to intervene militarily in Niger to overturn the country’s military government, which came to power after a coup in July. Mali and Burkina Faso have said they consider any attack on Niger as “declaration of war” against them as well.
The Sept. 16 pact also binds the signatories to pool their resources together toward fighting terrorism in the three countries. Mali began to experience the emergence of Takfiri terrorism in 2012, which spread to Niger and Burkina Faso three years later.
“Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries,” Mali’s defense minister said.
Mali has also witnessed resumption of hostilities by predominantly Tuareg armed groups over the past week, threatening a 2015 peace agreement.
Thousands of Nigeriens hold new anti-France protest in Niamey, Also on September 16, thousands of people demonstrated in front of a military base housing French soldiers in Niger’s capital city of Niamey to demand their departure from the West African country.
“Enough is enough. … All of them have to go back to their so-called country, France,” one of the protesters told AFP. The protesters waved flags of Niger while demonstrating to demand the departure of French soldiers.
“We don’t want France today; we don’t want France tomorrow. They just have to leave our country alone,” another demonstrator was quoted by AFP as saying.
The Sept. 16 protest was held in front of an air base, which shelters part of the French contingent in Niger, near the airport in Niamey.
Anti-France demonstrations began two weeks ago when tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the base to demand French troops and ambassador leave the country. Hundreds have remained ever since, vowing to continue the protest action until their demands are met.
The new demonstration came after France’s President Emmanuel Macron accused Niger’s new leaders of taking French ambassador hostage after he refused to comply with their order to leave.
Niger’s military leaders gave French ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the country after they seized power in a coup on July 26, overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum, who had the support of France. Macron, however, refused to comply or to recognize the legitimacy of the military rulers.
At the end of August, the military government revoked the diplomatic immunity of the French ambassador and ordered the police to expel him from the country.
Niger’s new leaders have also canceled military cooperation agreements with France and asked the country’s troops to leave quickly.
France was a colonial power in West Africa until 1960. It keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger and has so far refused to redeploy its forces. (PressTV.ir)