"We are at the beginning of a G3 Sahel and a regionalization of France's disavowal". (Bakary Sambe) Spécial

Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are now members of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES). The three regimes, which emerged from military coups, intend to establish a common defense architecture in the event of aggression by any of the parties involved. Some of its contours remain unclear, but its birth represents a geopolitical shift in the sub-region.

"By the present charter, called the Liptako-Gourma charter, the contracting parties institute between them the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) [...] Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties will be considered as an aggression against the other parties and will engage a duty of assistance and rescue of all parties." With these words, pronounced on Saturday September 16 in Bamako, the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdoulaye Diop, endorsed a project that had been in gestation for several weeks. The military regimes of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have finally created the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).

The entity aims to organize a system of collective defense and mutual assistance. It sounds like a direct response to the threat of military intervention brandished by the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Niger, following the July 26 putsch.

In the days that followed, Bamako and Ouagadougou quickly set the tone. Any attempt to reinstate the deposed Niger president, Mohamed Bazoum, "would be tantamount to a declaration of war" against them, and would result in their withdrawal from the ECOWAS. From now on, the parties involved in the ESA reserve the right to use "armed force" if they deem it necessary.

The military are thus formalizing their position of principle. "It's like saying, 'We're serious, this wasn't just talk'," comments journalist and Sahel expert Serge Daniel. "These three countries are in the process of establishing a legal basis for mutual defense," agrees Bakary Sambe, Regional Director of the Timbuktu Institute African Center for Peace Studies, based in Dakar, Bamako and Niamey.

The Liptako-Gourma Charter, a reference to the "three borders" zone where the jihadist threat is concentrated, has 17 articles. These cover various fields of application. On paper, Article 4 includes counter-terrorism agreements. But how it will operate remains to be defined. "Tomorrow, in principle, if these countries have the means, Mali could end up in Burkina Faso and Burkina Faso in another country to fight terrorism", explains Serge Daniel.

What's new is that, under the terms of Article 6, the same now applies in the event of rebellion. In theory, soldiers from Niger and Burkina Faso can now supplement Malian forces in the face of Tuareg-dominated armed groups in the north of the country. Article 6 is the cornerstone of the agreement. "It is the equivalent of article 5 of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)," compares Bakary Sambe. Article 5 of NATO stipulates that attacking one member is tantamount to attacking the whole Alliance.

"This is the beginning of a G3 Sahel".

This upheaval in the geostrategic landscape opens up a new, uncertain and unpredictable era in the subregion. It's an unprecedented configuration and a major geopolitical change, with this "khaki" pact against the other members of Cédéao," analyzes the teacher-researcher. These three countries now perceive the principle of collective security of ECOWAS as a strategic threat against them. This is a significant step backwards, making the security environment even more complex.

The fact that three Sahelian countries that have demanded the departure of French troops have joined forces is highly symbolic. "It's a regionalization of France's disavowal," sums up Bakary Sambe. The AES also signals the death of the G5 Sahel, from which Bamako withdrew in May 2022. "Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso were the linchpins of the G5 Sahel. This is the beginning of a G3 Sahel", predicts the researcher. "Initially, there were five countries united to fight terrorism. The G5 became the G3. It's not a federation but a defense alliance," agrees Serge Daniel.

The positioning of the international community will determine the value and legitimacy of this alliance, whose signatories belong to transitional governments (in Mali and Burkina Faso) or may become so (in Niger).

The case of Niger remains the most indecisive. Paris remains intransigent with regard to the military in Niamey and firmly supports ECOWAS. But with the dispatch of a new ambassador and the resumption of its surveillance operations, Washington seems less inflexible. China has already dispatched a delegation to meet the ruling military in Niamey. Moscow is calling for a diplomatic solution. "Will the international community continue to show solidarity with ECOWAS and the African Union? asks Mr. Sambe. The question now concerns the legality and legitimacy of transitional regimes and those not yet in transition. We're going to have to remain cautious, since we've entered the era of tacit diplomacy.

 Source : TV5 MONDE