What a Mali-Burkina Faso anti-terrorism coalition will mean for West Africa

Following the recent terror attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, both countries have formed a coalition to battle the menace. The prime ministers of both countries met in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou on Sunday to discuss this new coalition. This resolution came just two days after members of terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) attacked a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, killing 28 people and wounding another 50. These attacks follow a similar one carried out by the group in a hotel in Mali in November 2015.

The objective of the coalition is “sharing intelligence and conducting joint security patrols following two deadly and well-coordinated attacks in the region”. This coalition looks a lot like the one formed by fellow West African neighbours Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in May 2014. It was then upgraded in June 2015 after Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in. The Nigerian coalition has had its own challenges. The coalition has since last year been upgraded to an 8,700 strong joint task force team including Benin republic.

However, Ventures Africa spoke to Dr. Bolarinwa of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos Nigeria and here’s what he had to say about the coalition. He expects the Mali coalition to yield positive results. “I believe the coalition would stem the killings that look to be gaining ground in that part of West Africa. It could also extend to other West African countries and hopefully bring positive results”. The Mali-Burkina Faso coalition seems necessary considering the fact that the AQIM, who were mostly operating in Northern Mali, now seem to be moving southwards to other African countries.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram

The AQIM terror group gained worldwide recognition during the Malian civil war between 2012 and 2013. Since then, it has carried out a series of random attacks in Northern Mali, apparently in a bid to create its own caliphate. The AQIM is an affiliate of Al-Qaeda and reportedly has links with East Africa’s Al-Shebab. After the civil war ended, AQIM merged with Al-Mourabitoun, another terror group in Mali.  Looking at their recent attack in Burkina Faso, they seem to be moving downwards towards other West African countries, a course which could see them come in contact with Boko Haram. “They need to be stopped now before they grow into something big like Boko Haram. Boko Haram started in Nigeria in that way before it spread to Nigeria’s neighbours. This coalition has come in a timely manner,” said Dr Bolarinwa.

AQIM released a statement after the attack at the weekend. “”This blessed operation is but a drop in the sea of global jihad,” the statement read. Boko Haram, which is affiliated with ISIS, has seen its activities in the Nigerian coalition countries greatly reduced. Despite the beef between ISIS and Al-Qaeda, a “global jihad” could hint of something more; a possible merger between Al-Qaeda’s AQIM and ISIS Boko Haram.

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