Libya, Mali chaos alarms neighbours
By Walid Ramzi in Algiers for Magharebia – 29/05/2014
Experts and military officers from eight African countries on Thursday (May 29th) wrap up a five-day conference in Algiers focused on Sahel-Saharan security.
The event aimed to establish a joint strategy for securing the countries' borders, which are facing threats due to the situation in Mali and in Libya.
The workshop organised by the Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL), in co-operation with Spain's Guardia Civil, drew officers from UFL member states Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.
Experts and analysts from several regional security bodies, as well as the US and EU, also participated in the meeting.
The event ending today comes in a regional context "marred by a complex security and humanitarian crisis", said Fusion and Liaison Unit representative Sidikou Soumana. "It is also marred by tensions in northern Mali and Libya, and the kidnapping of more than 100 girls in Nigeria." He noted that this situation attracted "the attention of everyone".
Soumana added that "the ease of infiltration across the border" was one factor contributing to the spread of terrorism and the "major" proliferation of weapons and drug and human trafficking in Sahel countries.
For his part, Mauritania's representative in the Fusion and Liaison Unit, Mohamed Ould Chaibat, warned against the Sahel turning into another Afghanistan or Somalia.
He emphasised that there was confirmed information indicating direct ties between Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Libya and Syria. In northern Mali, certain groups, such as Ansar al-Din and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), are active and have ties with Islamists in Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.
"This means that the African Sahel may turn into a base for international terrorism and organised crime," he noted.
Ould Chaibat spoke about information indicating that jihadists were coming from Syria to Libya, seeing it as a fertile land for all terrorist organisations.
He added that mechanisms were put in place by the entities concerned and the Fusion and Liaison Unit, but much more work was still needed to protect the border. He noted that the Spanish partnership showed the growing awareness of European countries because any terrorist infiltration would be negatively reflected on them.
For his part, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said his country was following with "grave" concern the developments taking place next door in Libya.
"Algeria, which still adheres to the principle of non-intervention in other countries' internal affairs, is paying full attention to a situation characterised by instability and insecurity, which is causing the brotherly Libyan people huge tribulations and which is creating many challenges for Libya's neighbouring countries."
The workshop coincided with a meeting of Non-Aligned Movement ministers hosted by Algiers.
The Algerian foreign ministry's director-general for political affairs and international security, Taous Feroukhi, said the Sahel security file and the situation in both Mali and Libya would be among the most important issues to be discussed at the meeting.
"The deteriorating situation in Libya was a main reason in smuggling arms to neighbouring countries, followed by drug trafficking," Feroukhi added. "The proceeds of this and that eventually find their way to channels supporting terrorism, which is now threatening the entire region and impeding development therein."
"Faced with all this, we find ourselves forced to have joint co-operation both internationally and regionally," the foreign ministry official concluded.
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