Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali form defence alliance. Photo: Presidence du Niger/X

The leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger signed a charter establishing a defence alliance, ministerial delegations from the three Sahel countries announced at a press conference. The signing of the charter took place on Saturday in the Malian capital Bamako.

"Today, together with the Heads of State of Burkina Faso and Niger, I signed the Liptako-Gourma Charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), the aim of which is to establish an architecture of collective defence and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations", the head of Mali's ruling junta, Assimi Goita, posted on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.

The Liptako-Gourma region -- where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet -- has been ravaged by armed insurgent groups in recent years.

The three countries are battling an insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.

Defence and economy

Niger's junta leader Abdourahmane Tiani described the signing of the charter as ''historic'' saying ''together, we will build a peaceful, prosperous and united Sahel.''

Niger junta leader Tiania was at the signing event in Bamako. Photo: Presidence du Niger/ X

All three countries have also undergone coups since 2020, most recently Niger, where soldiers in July overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.

The countries have recently been at loggerheads with the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS over the coup that took place in Niger.

ECOWAS had threatened to use force to reverse the coup but the three countries vowed to counter the move.

"This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries", Mali's defence minister Abdoulaye Diop said at the press conference on Saturday.

"Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries", he added.

Tension with France

All three states were members of the France-supported G5 Sahel alliance joint force with Chad and Mauritania, launched in 2017 to tackle armed groups in the region.

Mali has since left the dormant organisation after a military coup, while ousted Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum said in May last year that the force is now "dead" following Mali's departure.

Mali junta leader Goita hosted the signing event in Bamako. Photo: Presidence du Niger/X

Relations between France and the three states, all its former colonies, have soured since the coups.

France has been forced to withdraw its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso, and is in a tense standoff with the junta that seized power in Niger after the junta asked it to withdraw its troops and its ambassador.

In addition to fighting insurgents linked to Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group, Mali has seen a resumption of hostilities by predominantly Tuareg armed groups over the past week.

The groups had in 2012 launched a rebellion before signing a peace agreement with the state in 2015. That agreement is now generally considered moribund.

TRT Afrika and agencies