By Enyichukwu Enemanna
The prime ministers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali on Saturday affirmed their commitment to a shared future under an alliance that has pitched them against regional bloc, ECOWAS, following their military coups.
“From now on, we say, whether you’re from Mali, Niger or Burkina, we have the same destiny. We’re going in together,” said Burkinabe premier Appolinaire Joachim Kyelem de Tambela at a joint press conference in Niger’s capital Niamey.
“It is up to us to take control of our destiny,” he said.
All three neighbouring countries are ruled by military officers who seized power in coups at various times since 2020.
Repeated appeals by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for return to democratic rule has been ignored.
Earlier, the three premiers appeared in front of a crowd of thousands celebrating the recent full withdrawal of French troops from Niger.
The juntas have all severed long-standing military ties with former colonial ruler France.
They have dealt with decade-old Islamist insurgency that has destabilised the Sahel region.
In a show of independence from France and ECOWAS, the three countries have sought to forge closer security, political and economic ties through a new union called the Alliance of Sahel States (AES).
“And so AES was born. If you notice, it all started with safety issues. Today, collaboration between our three armies has reached an extremely high level of integration. And that scares some people,” said Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maiga.
In August, data from US-based crisis-monitoring group ACLED showed that violence had soared in Mali and Burkina Faso since their militaries took power.
The countries have shared few specifics about the new alliance or their plans, but Niger’s premier Ali Lamine Zeine said all future cooperation would be done trilaterally.
“We have now decided to hold unified joint commissions for all three countries,” Zeine said at the press conference that was interrupted by loud chants of support.