• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Sahel nations form new confederation, deepening split with West Africa

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Military leaders from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger announced a new confederation called the Confederation of Sahel States (AES) on Saturday.

This move comes after they severed ties with the existing West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), accusing it of French manipulation.

“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 in Niamey.

The AES, with a population of around 72 million, aims to deepen cooperation between the member states. This includes a joint military force established in March to combat terrorist activity in the region.

Talks on Saturday also focused on collaborating in agriculture, water, energy, and transportation, as well as promoting indigenous languages.

The formation of the AES marks a significant split with ECOWAS. All three member countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – have recently ousted civilian governments through coups.

They accuse ECOWAS, heavily influenced by France, their former coloniser, of pressuring them to return to democracy.

Tensions with ECOWAS escalated in July 2023 after Niger’s coup. ECOWAS imposed sanctions and threatened military intervention. Sanctions were lifted in February, but relations remain strained.

This new confederation suggests the Sahel nations are forging their own path, seeking regional solutions to security and development challenges, independent of ECOWAS and potentially with closer ties to other partners, like Russia.