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Security 2013-01-28

Global experts tackle Sahel security

By Hassan Benmehdi in Marrakech for Magharebia– 28/01/13

Over 150 diplomats, officials and analysts from 67 countries convened in Marrakech on January 25th-26th to explore solutions to Sahel instability.

There is an urgent need to prevent the threat of terrorism from spreading across the region, concluded participants in the fourth Marrakech Security Forum, held by the African Federation for Strategic Studies (FAES) and the Moroccan Centre for Strategic Studies (CMES).

All Sahel states must now show determination to devise an efficient and effective strategy to tackle terrorism, said Mohammed Benhammou, who presides over both think tanks.

"Although the military solution was recently resorted to in the case of Mali, this cannot be viewed as the only and most important option, hence the need to envisage other solutions of a political, economic and social nature," Benhammou said at the event.

"The Sahel of today is also a theatre for the circulation and proliferation of heavy weapons, especially since the collapse of the Kadhafi regime," Benhammou told Magharebia before the forum.

He added that the area has turned into "a den of threats to regional and international peace and security".

"Solving this dilemma requires - along with the military solution - comprehensive strategies for human economic and social development and the rehabilitation of Sahel institutions," he said.

That view was echoed by former Malian Foreign Minister Zeini Moulaye, who stressed the need to come up with a collective security strategy for the whole of Africa.

"To achieve political stability in the region, security must be strengthened, economic and social development must be promoted, and productive investment needs to be encouraged," he said in a press statement on the side-lines of the forum.

For his part, French Brigadier General Jean Maurin said that no single country has the answer to the crisis in Mali and he called for the involvement of all countries.

"We need to collectively combat the terrorist threat in the Sahel-Saharan region, where many terrorist, separatist and criminal groups are active," he said.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bakou Magounia from Benin insisted that the establishment of democracy and security needs to be prioritised in Mali.

Pointing out that no country is safe from the threat of terrorism, U.S. Army Major General Charles Hooper lamented the security failings in the region, the fragility of democratic institutions, the economic and social crises, as well as harsh climatic conditions, which are directly weakening the authorities and putting them under pressure from terrorist groups.

Participants called for the restoration of democracy across the region, strengthened security measures to eradicate extremism and prevent the Mali crisis spill over. They also stressed the importance of promoting good governance to respond positively to public expectations.

In addition, delegates recommended focusing on sustainable development as poverty, misery, famine and drought have left 5-6 million inhabitants of the Sahel in need of immediate assistance, they said.

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