The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have proposed the formation of a confederation. The confederation, which is a step towards the long-term goal of creating a federation, is based on the Liptako-Gourma Charter, signed by the three countries. The three countries, which share a common border and a history of instability and violence, have decided to join forces to enhance their security and development. The charter states that the confederation will establish an architecture of collective defence and mutual assistance for the region’s benefit.
The confederation of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger is a bold and ambitious move that could transform the Sahel region. A confederation allows the member states to retain their sovereignty and independence, while also benefiting from the collective action and support of the other members. The three countries have a lot in common, such as their geography, history, culture, religion, and challenges. They have similar natural resources, such as gold, uranium, cotton, and livestock. However, the political instability within the three countries has inflicted a heavy blow on their economies. For example, Niger experienced a significant 40% reduction in its budget after the coup and attendant international sanctions. The country’s debt also climbed to $8.5 million amidst ongoing political tension. Niger’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program was also terminated by the US. By February 2023, the number of deaths linked to political violence had increased by 77% in Burkina Faso and 150% in Mali compared with 2021. Currently, Burkina Faso is the country with the highest number of victims of acts of terrorism in the world.
The confederation could have significant implications for the long-term prospects of the three countries and the region. For example, one of the main motivations for the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) is to enhance the security and stability of the region, which has been affected by jihadist violence, ethnic conflicts, and coups d’état in recent years. The AES charter states that any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties shall be considered aggression against the other parties and shall give rise to a duty of assistance, including the use of armed force to restore and ensure security.
The confederation is committed to working to prevent or settle armed rebellions, such as the one that has resumed in northern Mali by predominantly Tuareg armed groups. By pooling their military and intelligence resources, the alliance will counter the threat of terrorism and insurgency, which has undermined the authority of the state and the legitimacy of the democratic process in the three countries. This involves the countries coordinating with other regional and international actors, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), and France, which have been involved in peacekeeping and mediation efforts in the Sahel. Interestingly, these bodies had taken a hard stance on the military coups. ECOWAS suspended Niger from its membership and called for the release of the detained president and other officials.
Another thing the countries hope the confederation would do is to mobilize resources and attract investments to support the development of the region, which has been severely affected over the last few years. Last month, the countries’ finance ministers recommended the establishment of a stabilisation fund, an investment bank, and a committee to examine an economic and monetary union. By creating a larger and more diversified market, they hope to boost the economic potential and competitiveness of the three countries, which have similar natural and human resources. Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have a lot to gain from their cooperation. However, the success of the confederation will depend on the political will and commitment of the leaders, and the participation of the people.