8 November 2012

Africa: Sahel Security Tops African Union Event

Nouakchott — African diplomats on Tuesday (November 6th) concluded a two-day conference in Cairo with an agreement to adopt a unified vision to combat terrorism and promote peace and security on the continent.

The main theme of the 3rd African Union (AU) retreat of special envoys and representatives was "transforming the African peace and security context in the next decade". From the political situation in Libya to the looming intervention in Mali and Algeria's role in solving regional crises, the participants delved into a wide range of security issues.

The goal was "to have an exchange of views on current developments and the emerging threats and challenges to peace and security on the continent, along with strengthening the co-ordination and harmonisation of initiatives aimed at promoting lasting peace on the continent", according to the AU statement.

The conference brought together mediators from the AU, the Arab League, the European Union, the UN as well as civil society representatives and international security experts.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra noted complete identity of views between Algeria and the AU on the situation in Mali.

"This global vision hinges primarily on the need to find adequate solutions to the crisis in governance in Bamako, bringing about all the conditions which are likely to help complete the democratic and electoral process, which requires a consensus between the various Malian players," he said.

He also stressed the need to engage in peaceful negotiations with the armed groups active in the north of Mail and define security and military mechanisms to encourage a peaceful resolution. In addition, the AU official called for developing effective economic measures to settle the outstanding problems, which risk having a negative impact on Mali.

The international community "sees a peaceful settlement as the priority, whilst planning for incidents which may necessitate security and military decisions to be taken", Lamamra said.

"Restructuring the security and military system in Mali is an overriding necessity, and all assistance - including that given by Algeria - is necessary and helpful in re-establishing peace," he concluded.

International relations professor Yahia Zoubir noted a link between the conflict in Mali and political uncertainty in Libya.

As a consequence of the Libyan crisis "some of the weaponry has made its way in to northern Mali but also tribes have returned with ideas of irredentism", he noted. The political situation in Libya remains "fluid and unstable", he said.

For his part, Mauritanian Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady led a discussion on terrorism and the transnational dimension of Sahel conflicts.

He arrived in Cairo directly from Washington, where he had participated in a ministerial meeting in preparation for the 9th Forum for the Future of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA), set for December in Tunis.

Ould Hamady also met with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs Johnnie Carson. The meeting focused on assessing the political, security and humanitarian situation in the Sahel.

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