By Jemal Oumar
The European Union recently unveiled plans to boost Mauritanian border security with advanced technology, stepped up training and personnel exchange programmes.
The “West Sahel Project” is a partnership with the Spanish Guardia Civil and funded by an EU grant that covers 80% of the programme, amounting to 766 million ouguiyas (2 million euros).
“The project will provide Mauritania with state-of-the-art equipment that will facilitate the monitoring of its borders,” said Hans-Georg Gerstenlauer, head of the EU delegation in Nouakchott, at the September 18th event launch. The Spanish ambassador and the Mauritanian Gendarmerie Chief of Staff also attended the programme kick-off.
“The project will also make it possible to organise training sessions for border guards and yearly meetings for the exchange of information at the level of the region between the Sahel states and the EU, especially between police and Gendarmerie corps,” the EU official said.
Gerstenlauer added that the venture seeks to promote Sahel stability “because without stability and security it will not be possible to achieve development, social peace, economic growth, nor real democracy”.
“The project also aims at improving the mechanism for monitoring the land borders with the Sahel states such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Senegal,” he said.
The Spanish Guardia Civil will provide the security training, including a course for Mauritanian dog handlers.
“Mauritania is a neighbouring country and whatever happens in it affects Spain directly. The Spanish government is aware that Mauritania has limited resources in terms of border monitoring, and thus our government is offering its aid to bridge the gap”, said Alonso Dezcallar de Mazarredo, the Spanish ambassador to Mauritania.
“The issues that face our world today are terrorism, illegal immigration, and instability. Those are matters that can only be addressed by putting together the efforts of all the states,” he added.
Mauritanian Gendarmerie Chief of Staff General N’Diaga N’Dieng praised the role played by the EU and Spain in their support of Mauritania, adding that “the EU that has always shown willingness to provide support for maintaining the security and stability in the region”.
“The current situation is characterised by a fruitful co-operation between Europe and the Sahel states to fight terrorism and illegal immigration,” said economic analyst Yaqoub Ould Mustapha. “Illegal immigration has regressed lately, thanks to increased monitoring using better mechanisms, which helped Mauritania succeed in stopping the flow of refugees to the neighbouring Spanish Canary Islands.”
Ould Mustapha noted that the programme was just one of six joint EU-Mauritania projects in the last five years, with financing amounting to 6 billion ouguiyas (15.7 million euros).
“Last June, Mauritania set a new strategy to deal with all kinds of illegal immigration. Such a strategy was the first in the entire Sahel region in general, and made Mauritania qualify for the support of the EU and for funds of eight million euros to be given to Mauritania soon,” commented Mohamed Amin, a Mauritanian journalist and economist.