Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali on joint infrastructure, security, trade effort

Abdoulaye Diop (L), Olivia Rouamba (C) and Morissanda Kouyaté (R). Photo: Twitter/@MAEIAGE_Guinee

Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, all ruled by military juntas, had their foreign ministers propose a regional three-way partnership to facilitate trade and take on insecurity in the region, their joint statement published late on Thursday read.

The officials, Olivia Rouamba for Burkina Faso, Morissansa Kouyate for Guinea and Abdoulaye Diop for Mali, descended on Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou this week to examine avenues for collaboration. And working together is definitely needed in a region fraught with terror groups, social unrest and difficult climate conditions.

Ever since 2020, when the three countries went through military takeovers, they have been ruled by juntas. It was a regional jihadist insurgency that sparked some of the coups, which were met with economic sanctions from West Africa's main economic and regional bloc ECOWAS over proposed transition timelines deemed too slow. The organization also hammered Guinea and Mali with additional sanctions for delaying the restoration of their constitutional order. The sanctions will only be lifted if the ultimatums set last year are met.

In Ouagadougou, the three ministers decried the measures and requested technical and financial support for the transitions they deemed democratic. The officials noted in a statement “the need to set up and institutionalize a permanent coordination framework between the three countries”.

Now the link connecting the capitals of Bamako, Conakry and Ouagadougou is envisaged as a bedrock for fuel and electricity exchanges, a fabric of transport links, a foundation for cooperation on mineral resource extraction, rural development and trade, according to the statement.

The plan also acknowledges railway projects that would create a network of railroads connecting the three capitals. The countries would also seek joint effort to do away with insecurity, the statement suggested, adding that Burkina Faso's interim President Ibrahim Traore had asked his government to enact the plan.

While the military takeovers were fueled by the ire of citizens, fed up with living under constant threat from insurgents with Al Qaeda and Islamic State ties, they also alienated the three states from their former allies, most notably France, which drew down its troops from Mali amidst disagreements with its new government. Paris was also recently told by Burkina Faso to remove its forces.

Medécins Sans Frontières (MSF) has put its operations on hold in an area of northwest Burkina Faso where gunmen killed two of its employees on Wednesday.

On Saturday, armed assailants killed at least 22 civilians and three police officers during an attack in northern Burkina Faso. However, the vacuum left by the French military is likely to be soon eagerly filled by Russian mercenaries, from the Wagner private military company.

As recently as February 7, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Burkina Faso on his Africa tour. On Friday, he continued the trip to Sudan.