The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, all ruled by military juntas, have proposed a regional partnership to facilitate trade and tackle insecurity in the region, they said in a joint statement late on Thursday.
The ministers met in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou this week to discuss collaboration. All three West African countries have experienced military takeovers since 2020, reversing democratic gains that had seen the region shed its tag as Africa’s “coup belt”.
Frustrations over governments’ inability to protect civilians from a worsening jihadist insurgency spurred some of the putsches, which have led to economic sanctions and soured relations with regional and Western allies.
Foreign ministers Olivia Rouamba for Burkina Faso, Morissansa Kouyate for Guinea and Abdoulaye Diop for Mali noted “the need to set up and institutionalise a permanent coordination framework between the three countries”.
The Bamako-Conakry-Ouagadougou link will be a basis for fuel and electricity exchanges, transport links, cooperation on mineral resource extraction, rural development and trade, the statement said.
It will mobilise resources for a railway network linking the three capitals and centralise the fight against insecurity, it said, adding that Burkina Faso’s interim President Ibrahim Traore had asked his government to enact the plan.
Insurgents liked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have spread across West Africa’s Sahel region and beyond in the past decade despite international interventions, killing thousands and displacing millions.
The military takeovers in this context have raised concern among Western powers such as France, which pulled its troops out of Mali due to disagreements with its new government and was also recently told to leave Burkina Faso.
The juntas have also locked horns with West Africa’s main economic and regional bloc ECOWAS over proposed transition timelines deemed too slow.
All three countries were suspended from ECOWAS and the Africa Union as a result.
ECOWAS also imposed sanctions on Guinea and Mali for dragging their feet on restoring constitutional order, which will only be lifted if ultimatums set last year are respected.
The three ministers deplored the measures and called for technical and financial support for their democratic transitions.
There have been two coups in Mali since 2020, one in Guinea in 2021 and two in Burkina Faso last year.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Philippa Fletcher)