By Siham Ali
Major security threats continue to bear down on the Sahel region, including terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking and weapons smuggling.
The area has never faced such an acute concentration of simultaneous challenges brought about by widespread political instability and major humanitarian crises, according to Nasser Bourita, Secretary-General at the Moroccan Foreign Ministry.
Bourita made the comments at a Rabat gathering of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), which wrapped up on Tuesday (June 12th). Attendees at the summit, the first since the Arab Spring uprisings, agreed on the need to strengthen regional co-operation in order to tackle insecurity.
Recent events in the region, Bourita explained, have accentuated the risks of instability in the Sahel region. He pointed particularly to Mali, where terrorist groups have managed to take control of a vast geographical area. He said that the danger of terrorism in the region involves all the countries, who could be affected either directly or indirectly.
“The Sahel and Sahara region is experiencing dangerous security problems which threaten the countries’ future,” Bourita said. “The threats are sustained by networks active in organised crime, terrorism, illegal trade, drugs trafficking and weapons trafficking.”
CEN-SAD has therefore decided to act by setting up a committee dedicated to peace and security to keep a close watch on the situation in the region.
The Moroccan diplomat acknowledged that considerable efforts had been made to combat terrorism and organised crime, but more still needed to be done. In fact, he said, terrorism had extended its reach southwards, westwards and eastwards.
The establishment of security and stability depends on economic and social development, the Moroccan official said, adding that all countries across the region have a duty to work together to deal with insecurity.
“The establishment of stability requires the adoption of a global approach. Carefully thought-out joint initiatives are likely to limit the threats. CEN-SAD must play that role,” Bourita stated.
CEN-SAD Assistant Secretary General Ibrahim Abani shared that view. He said the African organisation has a duty to play a fundamental role in the fight against all forms of criminality and security threats. He said the crises in Somalia and in Mali have been aggravated by the proliferation of small arms in the Sahel region.
“We hope CEN-SAD will be able to play its part in the work to stamp out the smuggling which sustains terrorism,” he said.
Amadou Toré, Mali’s ambassador to Libya, said the security issue was a central preoccupation, particularly for his country.
“The security threats do not concern Mali alone, and they require us all to work together if we are to fight everything, which puts our development in jeopardy,” he pointed out.