The Three Musketeers

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The military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger signed a treaty over the weekend to enhance their mutual defense and integration, a major geopolitical shift that marked a departure from traditional alliances with Western and regional powers, Al Jazeera wrote.

Niger’s Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, Burkina Faso’s Capt. Ibrahim Traore, and Mali’s Col. Assimi Goita inked the agreement during a summit in the Nigerien capital Niamey, the first joint meeting of the three army leaders, all of whom came to power in military coups between 2020 and 2023.

The confederation treaty will strengthen the mutual defense pact, the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), that the three countries announced last year.

Observers said the move also underscored their collective departure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this year.

The three leaders criticized ECOWAS and Western nations – particularly former colonial ruler France – for their perceived interference and exploitation. Traore emphasized that the era of foreign dominance over their resources is over, while Goita asserted that an attack on one member would be seen as an attack on all.

ECOWAS suspended the three countries after their respective military takeovers, even as the bloc’s leaders are hoping for the trio’s return.

But analysts suggested that the junta leaders’ statements and the treaty indicate a firm stance against rejoining the bloc. They added that the new AES aims to create a more self-determined union and weakens ECOWAS’s influence, something analysts say is unlikely because of heavyweights such as Nigeria that are part of the large bloc.

The summit also coincided with the withdrawal of US forces from Niger, which comes as the coup-plagued region continues to grapple with violence from armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

With the departure of Western troops, the three West African countries are hoping to fill that vacuum through stronger regional cooperation and new alliances, particularly with Russia.

Even so, observers questioned whether the geopolitical reorientation would quell the region’s instability.

In 2023, Burkina Faso saw more than 8,000 deaths from the violence while major displacement continues across the three countries, with about three million people affected.

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