Nouakchott — It is time for Community of Sahel and Sahara States to confront terrorism and crime, experts say.
The conflict in Mali topped the discussions at the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) summit on Saturday (February 16th) in N'Djamena, Chad, RFI reported.
Leaders called for "support for the on-going political, diplomatic and military process in order to achieve final stability in Mali" and pledged some 760,000 euro support to AFISMA, the African-led international support mission to the country.
Twenty-four heads of state attending the summit expressed concern over the security threat to the Sahel-Sahara region.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz spoke to attendees about his country's efforts to secure its borders against incursions by criminals, terrorists and armed Islamist groups.
Ould Abdel Aziz explained that Mauritania was backing its efforts to secure its border with a project to register populations and create secured documents.
The African Union (AU) is prepared to support CEN-SAD efforts to enhance integration and support security in the region, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramadan Lamamra said.
Besides security issues, leaders discussed economic development and reforming the Sahel-Saharan body, especially after the death of Moamer Kadhafi.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Chairman Alassane Ouattara, the president of Cote d'Ivoire, called on the group to play its role in the member states' economic integration and move towards greater development.
CEN-SAD group will be forming a mini-ministerial committee in charge with reviewing regulations and bylaws.
"I think that it is about time the member states of this group dealt with the challenges facing them; otherwise it would be useless," commented Ahmed Mouloud Ould Ida, a professor of history at Nouakchott University.
Ould Ida noted that the most prominent of these issues are terrorism and smuggling across the desert and Sahel.
"The Community of Sahel and Sahara States has to face these challenges through concerted security efforts and local development in those countries and by giving rights to Touareg minorities," he concluded.
International relations expert Abu Bakr al-Ansari told Magharebia that he does not expect any major changes to emerge from the summit.
"These states must depend on their own capabilities and make their own decisions themselves," he said.
He added that member states must try to solve internal social problems as the only way to achieve social and political stability.
Chad President Idriss Déby, meanwhile, urged Africans to take responsibility for their own countries.
"We just can't stay like this for more than 50 years after our independence," he said.