Three junta-led Sahel states form new confederation, brushing aside ECOWAS peace offer

In a significant geopolitical shift, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have finalized plans to form a new confederation, despite ECOWAS’ decision to lift sanctions on the junta-led Sahel states in a bid to reconcile the three nations with the regional bloc.

The trio of Sahel countries made the announcement following a meeting of their foreign ministers in Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Friday (17 May). The new project named the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) enforced the departure by Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso from their former colonial ruler, France, and a turn towards closer ties with Russia, marking a geopolitical shift in the region. It also comes despite the recent decision by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lift sanctions on the three West African countries, aiming to reconcile them with the regional bloc after their announced withdrawal.

Upon the completion of a draft text outlining the institutional and operational framework of the AES, Niger’s Foreign Minister, Bakary Sangare, said that the heads of state from the three countries will formally adopt the text at an upcoming summit, although its exact date remains unspecified. But “we can consider very clearly, today, that the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States has been born,” declared Mali’s Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop. Experts say that the latest move by the three military junta-led Sahel nations indicates their resolve to stick to their earlier decision to discontinue their membership in the ECOWAS, which they justified by alleging that the 15-nation-bloc had “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism.”