By Siham Ali
Moroccans are increasingly focussed on security threats in the Sahel. From discussions in Parliament to round table meetings, many are closely following the developments.
“Morocco attaches great importance to the latest developments in the Sahel-Saharan region,” Foreign Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani told Parliament on Monday (August 6th).
The minister said the Moroccan government was in permanent contact and continuous co-operation with the countries involved and the regional organisations, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with a view to finding a settlement to the crisis in Mali.
“Faced with the situation prevailing in the region, Morocco has adopted an approach which is founded on four principles: the preservation of the territorial integrity of these countries, their stability and their independence, support for peaceful alternation of power and democratic progress, and rejection of power being taken by force, encouraging a political solution to the problems facing the region, as well as co-operation with the countries concerned and the regional groups,” El Othmani said.
Hicham Jbilou, an expert on international relations, explained that the increased interest in the Sahel was due to the recent events taking place in the region, which have unified the views of those living in the Maghreb.
“The Arab uprisings, including two in the Maghreb, have awakened the public’s awareness of the importance of the regional dimension,” he said, pointing out that security threats have existed in the Sahel for a long time, but never have they aroused so much curiosity from the man in the street.
Those threats have been fuelled by the crisis in Mali, but they would not have had so much impact in Moroccan eyes if the Arab Spring had not happened.
The situation is very worrying and requires all countries in the region to join their efforts, with the support of the international community, to thwart the terrorist networks and organised crime in all its manifestations, according to Jbilou.
MPs have expressed their concerns about the spread of weapons in the Sahel following the downfall of the Kadhafi regime, along with the proliferation of organised crime, particularly terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking.
MP Chafik Rachadi has highlighted the development of terrorist movements in the region and the risk of arms entering across Moroccan borders.
The public is making its fears very clear concerning the repercussions of the Malian crisis and the security threats facing the countries of the Maghreb.
Hanane Salim, a teacher, said that Morocco was not safe from what is happening in the Sahel, and that the situation remains more frightening than ever. She called on Moroccan officials to work with their Maghreb and international counterparts to find a way out of the Malian crisis and contain the security threat rampaging through the region.
Ouassila Fahimi, a political science student, struck a similar chord. She told Magharebia that the weapons freely circulating were a major risk for all countries in the region, which must remain highly vigilant to limit the danger.
“Personally, I’ve never been interested in the issue. But following the Arab uprisings, I’ve started following current affairs. I’ve discovered that the security threat is a significant one for our region,” Fahimi said.