Magharebia (Washington DC)

6 June 2014

West Africa: Sahel Countries Help Mali

Nouakchott — Sahel countries are seeking to help their Malian neighbour overcome its food and security crisis.

Algeria on Monday (June 2nd) sent 120 tonnes of humanitarian aid to northern Mali.

Food and pharmaceutical products were transported by military aircraft to the border, the Algerian foreign ministry said. Trucks from the Algerian Red Crescent drove the goods to Tessalit and Kidal.

Just a few weeks ago, Mauritanian President and African Union head Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz successfully helped settle an armed conflict that was on the verge of exploding between the Touaregs and the Malian government.

But these are not the only neighbourly interventions aimed at helping Mali.

Discussions about the security situation in Mali topped the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra on May 30th.

ECOWAS leaders expressed their concern over the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region, especially in the city of Kidal. They also denounced the bloody attacks carried out by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, MaliWeb reported on June 3rd.

Participants at the Ghana conference renewed their solidarity with the Malian government and discussed efforts to counter terrorist threats in the area.

Mali's neighbours are eager to help because they are all facing the same enemy, said Mauritanian analyst Mohamed Ould Ibrahim.

Algerian journalist Taoufik Bouqaedah noted that his country was always prepared to assist endangered populations in other countries.

"Algeria anticipates events and urges the international community to do the same in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis that can have repercussions on the security of the region," he explained.

Journalist and analyst Abou Bakr al-Ansari told Magharebia that neighbouring countries were required to provide more aid to the Touaregs in the cities of northern Mali because they lacked resources to survive.

Al-Ansari explained, "The north of Mali used to depend on what the Malian government offered."

"But the nature of armed conflicts and the control of al-Qaeda over the past year and the risks it posed on the movement of international relief organisations impacted those humanitarian efforts," he said.

"Therefore, neighbouring countries are requested to provide humanitarian aid, as much as they are required to confront terrorist groups moving in the region and leaving behind civilian casualties," he added.

Northern Mali faces a development problem before anything else, Mauritanian journalist Hachem Sidi Salem said.

"In areas such as Kidal and Gao and even Timbuktu, which is considered a tourist town, there are no real infrastructures or development projects," he explained.

Any attempt to solve this problem "should inevitably start by creating a sustainable development framework that can alleviate the burden of life on the residents of these areas", he stressed.

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