It seems that the dramatic developments in West Africa do not end, as the world did not wake up to the recent coup in Niger, and before it the coup of Mali and Burkina Faso, until the coup leaders in these three countries came out to announce on the sixteenth of this month what we can call the alliance of "putschists" in the face of any armed force standing in their faces, whether internal or external.
They agreed to form this military-security alliance, which they called the "Sahel" alliance, or the Liptako Gourma Region, which is the historical name of the border region between the three countries, which has been the center of many crises, especially in the face of jihadist movements and movements wishing to secede such as the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad since 2012, which prompted France the following year to intervene directly militarily through Operation Serval in Mali, and then launched Operation Barkhane one year later. In addition to Paris, it includes five countries – Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania – and its main goal is to confront these armed groups.
It is noted that this latest alliance between these three countries is not new in its idea, as its historical roots extend back to 1970, when these three countries decided - shortly after independence - to establish the Integrated Development Authority "Liptako-Gorma", which is commonly referred to as the Liptako Gorma Authority (LGA) to promote economic cooperation between the countries of this landlocked region, which has an area of more than half a million square kilometers and is considered the poorest economically despite its richness in vast natural resources.
In 2017, the task of developing this body extended to security issues, as economic development depends on political stability. Of course, this was done in coordination with France, which was leading Operation Barkhane and deploying more than 5,<> troops in these countries.
The circumstances of the formation of the new alliance
Perhaps what is new in this latest alliance is that it came after the wave of coups witnessed by the three countries against French influence, which began in Mali, where its leaders demanded the departure of French forces in August 2022, and then France announced only three months later the end of Operation Barkhane, passing through a similar request from the coup authorities in Burkina Faso, where there were 400 soldiers, and indeed the withdrawal took place last February, up to the Niger coup last August, and the coup leaders' demand for the departure of French forces. Numbering about 1500,<> troops, France was the upper hand of France in the region.
The new alliance is also directed against France, which is losing influence in its old colonies, and against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
This means that this alliance comes after France's failure – through Operation Barkhane – to eliminate the influence of jihadist and separatist movements in the region, and therefore the coup leaders in these countries saw the need for self-reliance in the face of these challenges, instead of relying on France, whose popularity declined after failing to achieve the desired stability for the peoples of the region.
Alliance against France and ECOWAS
But the problem is that this new alliance is also directed against both France, which is losing influence in its three colonies, and against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The leaders of the Niger coup insisted that French forces as well as the French ambassador should leave the country at the earliest opportunity, and not only that, as the leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso announced their support for the coup leaders in Niger against any possible intervention by France or ECOWAS to bring back Bazoum.
The idea was then developed under the last agreement to involve protecting each other against any external or internal aggression, as an attack on any of the three countries is an attack on the rest, which requires individual or collective intervention to stop this aggression, and this is known as the collective security system, which is not limited to the attack being within any of these three countries, but the attack on the forces of any of them may occur outside their borders. In other words, this collective security has been expanded, no longer limited to confronting jihadist movements, but also to separatists.
Implications of the Alliance on the Region
This is a rubber concept that may be interpreted to justify the use of armed force against any political or armed force that wishes to return to the ousted democracies in these three countries, and this alliance will be activated in the face of ECOWAS, which may seek under the 2001 Good Governance Protocol to intervene militarily to confront coups and restore democratic systems of governance, and thus will have this alliance on the lookout. Perhaps what is new in this alliance is the agreement to put in place the constituent structures for its implementation on the ground, after it remained a nominal alliance for six years.
New alliance finally hammers nail into the coffin of ECOWAS, which has so far been unable to intervene in the face of coups in West Africa
This means that this new alliance constitutes a collective security system parallel to the collective security of ECOWAS, and even creates a state of internal division, especially after ECOWAS suspended the membership of these three countries due to military coups, and in return these regimes expressed the desire to withdraw from them.
The danger also lies in the fact that this new alliance invited the rest of the countries of the region to join it, a step that would promote the idea of military coups, in light of the presence of a strong military backer for the leaders of these coups. It also hammers a final nail into the coffin of ECOWAS, which has so far been unable to intervene in the face of coups in these three countries, and at such an angle ECOWAS threatens the possibility of intervention in Niger are hollow and lack practical seriousness, especially since any decisions may require a degree of consensus or a majority that has become difficult to achieve.
Thus, the virus of "divisions" infects ECOWAS as it has infected the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) before, announcing the imminent end of its security and military effectiveness, and launching a new phase of coups in this coup belt that the Sahel region has been witnessing for years.