Burkina Faso, Mali eye federation after expelling French soldiers
Recently, during a visit to neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso's prime minister suggested the two countries form a "federation" to boost their economic clout, his office said. Both nations are battling jihadist insurgencies. They are both nun by military juntas who have turned away from France, the former colonial ruler.
"We could create a flexible federation that would be mutually reinforcing and respect the aspirations of both sides," Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem de Tambela said, according to an official account of the visit published by his office.
"Mali is a major producer of cotton, cattle and gold. Burkina Faso also produces cotton, cattle and gold," Kyelem de Tambela said during the trip.
"So long as we each take separate paths, we don't have much clout. But Mali and Burkina Faso's cotton, gold and cattle can turn both countries into a powerhouse." Kyelem de Tambela referred to a past effort to forge a federation in francophone West Africa -- a stillborn bid to bring together Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin shortly before they gained independence from France in 1960.
"Our forebearers tried to create groupings, like the Mali Federation, which sadly did not last. But they showed us the way," he said.
"One of my reasons for going to Mali is that for a long time, we've been looking elsewhere for solutions when they're often right under our noses," he continued.
The two landlocked Sahel countries rank among the poorest and most volatile nations in the world and have experienced few periods of calm since independence. They are also battling a brutal jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives, driven more than two million from their homes and prompted military takeovers of the elected government.
Both nations have expelled French forces frustrated by a failure to defeat the militant insurgency.
Kyelem de Tambela hailed the "genuine revolution" he said had taken place in Mali since Colonel Assimi Goita seized power in 2020 and said it had "inspired" the new military rulers in Burkina.
Burkina and Mali have each witnessed two military coups since 2020 and are under pressure from the international community to return to democratic civilian rule. A new federation should be on the table now before power is returned to civilians "because when the politicians get back in, it'll be tricky", Kyelem de Tambela said.