Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - As Libya prepares for an international support meeting on dealing with its internal security challenges, a ministerial meeting of the Sahelo-Saharan region has called for an increased engagement of Africa “to help this brotherly country overcome the challenges facing it, in a spirit of African solidarity.”
The third ministerial meeting on the Enhancement of Security Cooperation and the Operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) in the Sahelo-Saharan region, held 19 Feb. 2014 in Niamey, Niger, noted that the situation obtaining in Libya is difficult.
In their conclusions, the ministers said they looked forward to the 6 March 2014 meeting, to be held in Rome, Italy, under the auspices of the Italian and Libyan governments, to mobilise more effective international support for Libya, in the light of the security challenges facing the country.
According to a statement made available to PANA here Thursday by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), participants at the Sahelo-Saharan regional meeting have agreed to hold a consultation prior to the Rome gathering “in order to harmonise their position and facilitate the attainment of the set objectives”.
In addition, they have requested Niger, with the support of the AU Commission, to facilitate the holding of the planned consultation as soon as possible.
The ministerial session was preceded by the fourth meeting of the heads of intelligence and security services of the countries of the region, also held in Niamey, on 17 Feb. 2014.
With regard to the security situation in the region, participants at the session welcomed “the overall positive developments” recorded since their last meeting in September 2013, but expressed concern at the persistence of terrorist threats, as evidenced by the recent events in northern Mali and the attacks that the Boko Haram and Ansaru groups continue to carry out in Nigeria.
During their meeting, the heads of intelligence and security services noted the exploitation by the terrorist groups of inter-communal tension and conflicts, saying “this situation calls for specific measures and the active involvement of the local authorities and governments in the border areas.”
The spy chiefs also “noted the links with cross-border criminal activities, including drug trafficking (cocaine and cannabis) and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as well as the threat posed by the return to the region of terrorist elements who were involved in fighting in other parts of the world,” said a statement on their operational conclusions.
Countries that took part in both meetings were: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
Other participants included Ambassador Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security; Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission; Mr. Ibrahim Abani, acting Secretary-General of CEN-SAD; Ambassador Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa; and Mr. Mohamed Bazoum, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of the Republic of Niger.
Besides endorsing the operational conclusions of the 4th meeting of the Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of the region, the ministers underlined their determination to implement the measures agreed upon.
With regard to the operationalisation of the APSA in the Sahelo-Saharan region, the meeting participants agreed on three measures to be undertaken:
First, convene meetings of the Chiefs of Defence Staff and Ministers of Defence to consider the generic Concepts of Operation for joint patrols and mixed units, as well as the modalities for strengthening the existing cooperation structures and all other modalities of collaboration between and among the countries of the region.
In this respect, they welcomed the offer by Mali to host these meetings at a date to be agreed upon with the AU Commission, and requested the AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, to undertake consultation missions to the countries of the region to facilitate this process;
Second, convene a summit of the countries participating in the Nouakchott Process, to mobilise further political support for the Process and enhance ownership by the countries of the region; and
Third, establishment, under MISAHEL (AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel) leadership, of a lean secretariat in Niamey, to better coordinate the implementation of the Nouakchott Process, pending its possible transformation into an executive secretariat linked to MISAHEL.
The Nouakchott Process, all agree, provides a unique framework for a common approach to the security challenges facing the region on the basis of shared vision and collective responsibility.