The military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger signed a new “confederation” treaty on Saturday after they convened for a maiden summit in the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

The heads of the three countries, who came to power through coups in recent years, “decided to take a step further towards greater integration between the member states” and “adopted a treaty establishing a confederation”, they said in a statement at the end of Saturday’s summit.

In January, the three countries severed ties with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), accusing the bloc of being influenced by the West.

The “Confederation of Sahel States” uses the acronym AES and will have about 72 million people.

All three countries broke their military and defence ties with France and turned towards Russia instead.

“Our people have irrevocably turned their back on ECOWAS,” said General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of Niger’s military government, as he opened the summit.

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

The sanctions were lifted in February, but relations between the two sides have not improved.

The move comes before ECOWAS’s leader’s summit on Sunday in Abuja, where the new alliance will certainly be on the agenda.

The AES countries had earlier entered a military alliance in March to combat the extremist groups that regularly attack their territory.


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