West African leaders agreed on Sunday to create a regional force to intervene against jihadism and in the event of coups, a senior official said.
Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States had decided to act to “take care of our own security in the region”, Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission, told journalists at a summit in Nigeria.
They are “determined to establish a regional force that will intervene in the event of need, whether in the area of security, terrorism and restoring constitutional order in member countries,” he added.
Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso have all been hit by military coups in the last two years.
Several countries in the region are also suffering from the spread of jihadism, including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, and southwards to the Gulf of Guinea.
National armies, largely powerless against the jihadist forces operating across borders, have been cooperating with external actors such as the UN, France, and Russia.
But Touray said this decision would “restructure our security architecture”.
Defense chiefs will consider the modalities of the planned regional force in the second half of 2023, Touray said.
The force’s funding must also be decided, but the ECOWAS official stressed that such an operation could not solely depend on voluntary contributions.