By Bakari Gueye
The recent turmoil in Mali prompted the Mauritanian government to send reinforcements to the border with the north of the country, where locals have declared the new state of Azawad.
According to a Mauritanian military press release, the National Chief of Staff sent reinforcements on April 5th to the eastern and southern borders of the country, “to ward off any incursions of armed groups from Mali”. Military units “have headed for the town of Bassiknou and areas close to the border with Mali, where the MNLA and armed Islamist groups are currently active.”
Cheikh Tourad Ould Eli, a terrorism expert, said that “the Mauritanian army wants to boost its presence in the east of the country to counter any manoeuvres by AQIM, which has men scattered everywhere following the disintegration of Mali and the defeat in the north by MNLA troops.”
The dispatch of troops comes “just after Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz attended a meeting of presidents of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss military intervention in Mali,” he added.
“The Mauritanian authorities have had two battles to deal with of late: an internal struggle with demonstrations by the Democratic Opposition Co-ordinating Body (COD), which is calling for the president and his government to step down and is organising public protests, and another concerning security along the country’s borders,” said political analyst Mohamed Ould Sidi.
Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia recently announced that Joint Operational Committee of Chiefs of Staff (CEMOC) is due to meet in the coming days in Nouakchott.
“A meeting of CEMOC chiefs of staff will soon be held to assess the situation in the region given the worrying resurgence of terrorist activity led by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, which was created in the wake of the civil war in Libya. Our sources say it is masterminded chiefly by Malians and Mauritanians,” Ouyahia added.
“Having kidnapped European citizens in Tindouf and waged an attack on the National Gendarmerie in Tamanrasset, this group has just carried out an abduction in the back yard of the MNLA by kidnapping the Algerian consul in Gao and six Algerian diplomats,” he noted.
According to Mohamed Ould Cheikh, an academic who conducts research on terrorism, “the armed groups which are destabilising the Sahel, and Mali in particular, must now grapple with the increased offensive strength of the armies in the sub-region.”
“This is because Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Mali created CEMOC based in Tamanrasset,” Ould Cheikh noted. “Its objective is to co-ordinate the counterterrorism efforts of the four armies and to make it possible to conduct joint operations in each of the countries concerned.”