In addition to the lack of regional security, “endemic poverty and food insecurity are worsening,” the Moroccan FM said.
Rabat – The Moroccan government continues to bring to light the worrisome security threat in the Sahel region.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita represented Morocco during the first ministerial meeting of the International Coalition for the Sahel on Friday, June 12, to discuss the “constant and acute” problem of security in the Sahel.
The Sahel spans the transition zone between the Sahara desert and the Sudanian Savanna. The 5,400-kilometer belt (3,360 miles) includes parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.
The minister warned of “deteriorating security conditions” in the region amid an uptick in terror attacks claiming thousands of lives. The number of people killed due to lack of security in the region has quintupled since 2016, Bourita said.
The minister also described the persistent poverty in the region as “endemic” and said the issue of food insecurity is worsening.
“Demographic pressure continues to weigh on development efforts,” he stressed.
Bourita underlined the importance of the international coalition announced at the Pau Summit on January 13, 2020.
The seriousness of the security threat in the Sahel urged partners seeking development in the region to create the coalition to find a stronger and inclusive response to the varying issues of climate, conflict, and instability.
“This coalition could mark an inflection — a real one — towards this synergy that we have always called for,” Bourita said on Friday.
The Moroccan FM also applauded France’s efforts and involvement in the response against the security threat in the region.
“We are certain that it will bring more mobilization, more ownership and more coherence. These are, I think, the keywords of the Pau Summit of 13 January,” Bourita said.
The establishment of the coalition reflects a “promising combination of hard power for the first time,” he continued. “The coalition for the Sahel was right … there is no stabilization without development, any more than there can be development without stabilization.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently highlighted the increase of terrorism in the Sahel, especially Mali.
“Building a politically stable and more secure Mali requires our collective and sustained commitment and MINUSMA’s continued support. We owe this to the people of Mali and the Sahel region, who deserve a better future,” Guterres said.
The UN chief recalled how terror groups and criminal organizations are expanding their operations in Mali and in the greater Sahel.
“I remain very concerned about the situation in central Mali, where terrorist activity continues to fuel violence among communities, taking a heavy toll on the local population,” he said.
Morocco’s multi-faceted role in the Sahel
Bourita highlighted the “Moroccan approach” to the situation in the Sahel, under the vision of King Mohammed VI: “Human above all, it is revolved around an inseparable triptych: Security, human development, and training.”
“Indeed, the security dimension, although insufficient on its own, remains necessary,” the minister said. “Morocco’s experience in intelligence and counter-terrorism has always been made available to Morocco’s partners at the regional and international levels.”
This experience is now “recognized and appreciated by all allies, brothers, and friends of the kingdom,” he added. In the Sahel region, Morocco “supports the setting up of the G5 Sahel Defense College in Nouakchott and dedicates 203 training places each year in Moroccan military establishments.”
“Officers of the Royal Armed Forces provide support beyond our region and are notably placed at the disposal of the School of Peacekeeping Alioune Blondin Beye to deliver short modules,” Bourita continued.
“Human development, the key to the sustainability of action against terrorism, is at the heart of Moroccan action,” he stressed.
Precariousness, unemployment, and lack of education comprise a “breeding ground for terrorism” he said, adding that “creating wealth means impoverishing terrorism and depriving it of its most compelling arguments.”
“It is by making this choice, the choice of investing in socio-economic and human development, that Morocco sees a lasting solution to terrorism,” the Moroccan FM said.
“The dimension of training is just as fundamental. It immunizes minds and hearts through the promotion of an authentic, tolerant, and moderate Islam,” Bourita emphasized.
“This is the guarantee of Morocco, through the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Mourchidines, and Mourchidates. Today, more than 93% of foreign students (937 out of 1,002), enrolled in the Institute’s training courses for the year 2018-2019, are from ECOWAS countries and Chad.”
A heightened need for political commitment
Despite the worrying situation in the region, the coalition holds onto hope.
The Moroccan FM lauded the active contribution of several powerful forces in response to the regional threats, saying the international attention is “alive and well.”
The coalition initiative requires leadership and flexibility, he continued
Bourita said leadership should serve as an “essential” pillar to express support and solidarity with the Sahel states.
The coalition seeks to offer flexible responses to the various challenges and to not “get lost in negotiating texts and resolutions,” Bourita said, calling on all parties involved in the initiative to avoid “friendly fire.”
“How many initiatives have suffered as a result? Coherence, synergy, and interoperability are prerequisites. Barkhane, the national armies, and the G5 Joint Force have shown unfailing commitment to date, particularly in the ‘three borders’ region (Niger/Mali/Burkina Faso),” the Moroccan FM argued.
The official concluded by reiterating Morocco’s call for a reconciliatory political consultation and enduring political commitment to help resolve the situation in the Sahel.