A small group of activists has been walking from Mali’s capital Bamako to Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to express their support for a federation between the two West African states.
The group, which calls itself “The walkers for African unity”, comprises a dozen men and women. It left Bamako on February 27. It is due to arrive in Ouagadougou on Tuesday and end its march at the Thomas Sankara Memorial, a tribute to the former president and noted pan-Africanist.
Holding the flags of both countries and the African Union, the activists walked in single file last week on the side of a road near Hounde, in western Burkina Faso, as they neared the finish line of a trek of more than 860 km (535 miles).
“It is for us today to push our governments, our institutions, our people to move towards a federation because we believe that only the federation can be the global and definitive solution for Africa,” said Souleymane Diouf Diallo, spokesperson for the group.
“We the African people want there to be a federation between Mali and Burkina Faso and why not Guinea, Senegal, Ghana later,” he said.
Last month, the prime ministers of Mali and Burkina Faso said they would examine the idea of creating a federation. It is not clear exactly what that would entail.
The two countries share a long border and face similar challenges. They are both ruled by military governments which overthrew civilian leaders in the last two years, largely out of frustration at worsening insecurity as armed groups stepped up attacks.
Relations with former colonial master France have also deteriorated in recent years, leaving them to seek new partners, including Russia’s private military contractor group, Wagner. French troops have withdrawn from Mali, and Burkina Faso has expelled the French ambassador.