interviewBy Jemal Oumar
Nouakchott — The chief of a brand new radio station in Mauritania believes it is important to report on jihadist activities to stay vigilant.
Ahmed Ould Abah is the director of the newly licensed Sahara Media radio, one of the five stations that recently won permits from the Mauritanian government.
The radio station has distinguished itself for its original editorial line focusing on terrorism-related matters in the Sahel. In recent months, Sahara Media obtained exclusive footage of some al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)'s activities.
Magharebia sat down with Ould Abah.
How did you have the idea to specialise in covering the Sahel?
What we do is not specialised work as much as it is coverage of events in the Sahel in general. This area is of primary concern to Mauritania. We are a Mauritanian radio station that pays attention to all matters of concern to Mauritanians and their security, hence, our focus on that area was necessary. Therefore, we believe that the Malian crisis does not concern Mali alone, but concerns Mauritania, Niger and other Sahel countries.
The second issue is that jihadist groups that move in the region include some young Mauritanians in their ranks, and this increases our attention to the region and to terrorism.
How do you monitor current events on a daily basis knowing it is difficult to communicate with jihadists and follow up on their news?
We depend on field correspondents who hail from the area as well as on other sources that we formed years ago in Sahel. Thanks to these sources and field presence, we managed to get exclusive information and news. However, the issue we always bet on is professionalism in coverage and objectivity in presentation, and this has made us a trustworthy source for all parties in Azawad.
How much of a role can the radio station play in consolidating security in the Sahel all the while trying to have scoops in reporting news on terrorism?
I think there is no conflict between the two issues as long as we professionally and cautiously deal with news. If, for example, we publish an al-Qaeda warning to blow up certain targets, citizens will feel threatened and will be cautious, but at the same time they get full information.
What's your evaluation of the situation in northern Mali? Are there any prospects for a possible solution soon?
It's a very complex situation because of the presence of multiple parties. We can talk about several frameworks here.
On the one hand, there is a difference between the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist jihadist groups, and on the other hands, these Islamist groups have internal differences. Local populations and tribes have their own internal differences.
In addition to this, there is instability in southern Mali where there is a regime that is half civilian and half military, and within the military regime itself there are sharp differences between Sanogo's supporters and top officers. Field countries are not in harmony, and France and America don't agree on their policies about solving the crisis.
All of these factors make it difficult to reach a solution in the near future, and this means that the crisis will remain for a long period of time.
In sum, it is difficult to reach peaceful solutions for the time being, while the military option is not always a solution.