3 countries announced in January their departure from Economic Community of West African States bloc
Niamey, Niger
© Balima Boureima/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesCivilians gather to join the Army in front of the stadium as recruitment for a civilian militia force called the Volunteers for the Defense of Niger (VDN) commenced in Niamey, Niger, on August 19.
Leaders of the military regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger held their first joint summit on Saturday in the Nigerien capital of Niamey, where they announced a confederation of three Sahel states.

The trio, at their first summit since taking power in military coups, adopted a joint statement for a treaty to set up the confederation.

"This summit marks a decisive step for the future of our common space. Together, we will consolidate the foundations of our true independence, a guarantee of true peace and sustainable development through the creation of the 'Alliance of Sahel States' Confederation,'" Capt. Ibrahim Traore, the leader of Burkina Faso, wrote on X.

The summit appears to have signaled their departure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which the three leaders said they would leave earlier this year despite frequent efforts at reconciliation by the bloc.

Ties between the three Sahel nations deteriorated with ECOWAS after Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani took power from elected President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup in Niger last July.

The bloc imposed sanctions on Niger and threatened intervention which irritated the trio.

"The AES (Alliance of Sahel States) is full of enormous natural potential which, if properly exploited, will guarantee a better future for the people of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso," said Traore.

The three countries, with a combined population of 72 million, are affected by instability caused by militant groups.

The trio is expected to cooperate on security issues and form closer economic ties.