The coalition, first announced at a January summit after a series of attacks killing more than 200 soldiers, has been ratified in virtual meetings of more than 40 defense and foreign ministers.
“We can now hope that the setbacks suffered by our armies during the second half of 2019 and the difficulties of implementing our development projects are behind us,” said Nigerian Foreign Minister Kalla Ankourao.
The new structure brings together the so-called G5 Sahel States of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, as well as the French forces and all future troops under a single command, and also coordinates development, governance and humanitarian work.
Paris has long sought more support from other European countries and cooperation between the Sahel states.
The coalition would provide more aid from European special forces to regional armies and financial aid from countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“This is a good example of the new multilateralism that the world needs today,” said French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Although French and Sahel forces have made recent progress, including the murder of Al-Qaeda’s North African leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, militants have continued their attacks, pushing further south toward countries coastal areas like Côte d’Ivoire.
At the same time, extrajudicial executions of civilians by national armies, including allegations that soldiers in Mali killed 43 people in two villages last week, were sentenced.
“If there are abuses against civilians, you cannot expect their collaboration,” said Drissa Traore, a Malian human rights activist, on Thursday.
Le Drian called for accountability while Mali’s foreign minister Tiébilé Dramé said the recent allegations would be brought to court.
Despite these promises in the past, no charges against the security forces have been announced in recent years. (Report by Boureima Balima in Niamey, Thiam Ndiaga in Ouagadougou, Aaron Ross in Dakar, Bate Felix and John Irish Paris Writing by Bate Felix and Aaron Ross Edition by Peter Graff and Andrew Cawthorne)