West African junta leaders seal alliance with first meeting


The leaders of three West African military governments are meeting for the first time to cement an alliance that was formed despite opposition from neighbouring countries.

Between 2020 and 2023, soldiers seized power in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in a series of coups.

All three countries – now forming the Sahel Alliance – have been hit by jihadist violence, partly driving the military takeovers.

In January, they all announced a plan to leave the larger regional bloc Ecowas, which is holding its own summit on Sunday.

At a meeting on Saturday in the Nigerien capital Niamey, junta leaders are expected to formally establish the alliance, better known by its French acronym AES.

The leader of the coup in Niger, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, is leading the talks, along with Captain Ibrahim Traoré from Burkina Faso and Colonel Assimi Goïta from Mali.

Security cooperation is high on the agenda, but the AES will also seek to create closer economic ties, including the goal of creating a common currency. This would be a rejection of the French-backed CFA franc, which is used in many states in the region.

All three countries have expelled French soldiers who were there as part of an anti-jihadist mission and turned to Russia for military help.

Calls for greater sovereignty and rejection of the former colonial power are a key part of the junta leaders’ rhetoric.

The countries have also resisted calls from ECOWAS for a rapid return to civilian rule.

Capt Traoré arrived in Niamey a day before the meeting and was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome. Television images showed cheering crowds waving Nigerien and Burkinabe flags.

Among them was Sidi Mohamed, the head of the National Youth Council.

“Today we are very proud as Africans to see a summit that is truly African, a summit where states have decided to pool their energies, to pool their strengths to create an alliance for their development, without foreign stakeholders, without counterparts from the powers that are used to ruling over us,” he told journalists.

The arrival of Col Goïta was expected on Saturday.

Presidents of the broader West African bloc will have a chance to respond on Sunday at a meeting of heads of state in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

They will also announce the activation of a standby force to combat insecurity in the region.

Over the past decade, the Sahel has increasingly become the focus of militant activities by the Islamic State, creating insecurity and instability.

The juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali have so far failed to quell the violence.



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