11 February 2014

West Africa: Brussels Talks Tackle Sahel Instability

Photo: La Tribune
Militants of the Sahel region.

Nouakchott — Brussels played host to a series of meetings last week designed to better address the situation in the Sahel.

The second follow up meeting to the Donor Conference for the Development of Mali began on February 5th and the Ministerial Meeting on the Sahel, a high-level meeting to discuss international strategies, was held on February 6th.

During the meetings about the Sahel, Malian Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly said that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had taken "diplomatic steps to better adapt our immediate environment to our security requirements and to commence inclusive peace talks in the near future".

"It was as part of these efforts that the head of state travelled to Mauritania and Algeria, two neighbouring countries, and Mali is relying on constructive support from Algeria to speed up the holding of inclusive peace talks," the premier added.

In his description of the situation in the Sahel, Ly observed: "This area has now become one of the most vulnerable regions in the world because it faces multiple challenges including terrorism, drug trafficking and violent extremism, which are exacerbating an already difficult situation characterized by unfavourable climate factors, extreme poverty, porous borders, cyclical food crises and political instability."

"This set of factors is hampering the security of the Sahel region, its stability and its development," he added.

"None of our states is safe from terrorism or the situation that our country has experienced since January 2012, from which it is gradually recovering thanks to the support of the international community," the Malian prime minister said.

He noted that "to solve it, we need to be able to act together in an ordered and coordinated manner with synergy and the necessary determination. It is our survival that is at stake."

During the donor conference, the prime minister recalled that to implement the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali, 55 of the 108 delegations that attended the meeting had pledged a total of 3.3 billion euros. "Hence the importance of each donor keeping his promises," he added.

On this subject, he expressed delight at the fact that the European Commission is continuing to honour its commitments. "Almost all of the 523 million euros pledged by it in Brussels has been invested and 120 million euros has been paid directly to Mali's state treasury," he said.

Marcus Cornaro reaffirmed the European Commission's desire to support Mali over the coming years. However, he gave a reminder of the "fact that the support from the international community is in addition to the internal efforts that we must make".

On the subject of security in the region, Nigerien Interior Minister Massoudou Hassoumi travelled via Paris on February 5th. According to the French foreign ministry, the talks provided an opportunity to assess "the situation in the countries of the Sahel and in Libya, and confirmed the closeness between our approaches and the trust in our bilateral relations."

"The situation in Libya is completely out of control," terrorism expert Sidati Ould Cheikh said.

Political assassinations are an everyday phenomenon and ministers and MPs are regularly the target of kidnappings in Tripoli. The deputy industry minister, Hassan al-Droui, was shot dead in his home town of Sirte in January. One month previously, Colonel Fethallah al-Gaziri, who had just been appointed as chief of military intelligence in Benghazi, was killed in Derna.

"The break-up of Libyan society and the deep-rooted tribalism are stoking up political rivalries. Several factions have formed within both the government and the General National Council, which doesn't help matters," Ould Cheikh added.

That analysis was also put forward by Jidou Ould Sidi, a journalist who specialises in security matters.

"Since the fall of Kadhafi in 2011, southern Libya has gradually become an area of regional insecurity. This area has become the new centre of gravity of terrorism," he said.

Ould Sidi added: "The arrival of groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in southern Libya is fuelling the insecurity across the entire Sahel-Sahara region and necessitates urgent action from the international community."

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