CALL TO ARMS: Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at his palace in Bamako. Picture: AFP
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita made a trip to Burkina Faso on Tuesday after terror attacks on both countries, declaring the Sahel nations were united against jihadism.

Keita is current chairman of the so-called G5 Sahel group - a coalition of five Western-backed Saharan countries that have pledged to fight terror.

“The G5 Sahel is united in the face of terrorism,” Keita said in a statement to the press at the presidential palace in the capital Ouagadougou, alongside Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

“We will not give up, they won’t scare us,” Keita said. “They will not succeed in making us cower in our homes.”

On Sunday, 18 people, including eight foreigners, were shot dead in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou in the latest attack in West Africa to target a spot popular with expatriates. There has been no claim of responsibility. 

The restaurant is 200m from a hotel and cafe targeted in an assault in January last year that left 30 people dead and 71 wounded, many of them foreigners.

That attack was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

On Monday, gunmen attacked two United Nations bases in Mali, killing a peacekeeper, a contractor and seven Malians.

A gun attack in the early morning at a base in Douentza, in the central region of Mopti, was followed within hours by a gun-and-grenade assault on a camp in Timbuktu in the northwest.

The “G5 Sahel” coalition gathers Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger - countries that have been badly hit by jihadist attacks but whose military resources are thin.

France is pushing for the G5 to set up a joint force of 5000 men, but the plan has met with worries over funding.

An estimated $471million is required to make it operational.

Speaking before the UN Security Council, Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations, Issa Konfourou, said the attacks underscored the urgency of setting up the force.

He said progress had been made since the joint force was formally constituted early last month, but Mali called “on all friendly countries and partner international organisations to help us to complete the budget”.

The force is to be comprised of troops from Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

A Malian diplomat said equipment was needed for the force’s five battalions. Also required is a communications systems linking them to headquarters and a medical evacuation unit.

Plans call for deploying the first units in October and for the battalions to be operational by March, with priority placed on cross-border military operations.

Speaking at a UN Security Council debate on security in Africa, France’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Anne Gueguen stressed the need for an “urgent response” to armed jihadist groups destabilising the Sahel region, the semi-arid region in north central Africa that extends from Senegal to Sudan.

Her American counterpart, Michele Sison, said deeper co-operation between the five participating countries could help improve regional security and compliment the work of an existing UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

“The United States will continue its longstanding bilateral support to develop and build the capacity of G5 members’ security forces,” she said.- AFP