For Morocco, Sahel is More than Just Geographical Neighbourhood Zone

For Morocco, Sahel is More than Just Geographical Neighbourhood Zone


"For Morocco, the Sahel is more than a geographical neighbourhood area. It is a zone of historical, cultural, political and geostrategic belonging," said Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates, Nasser Bourita, in his speech at the first ministerial meeting of the International Coalition for the Sahel, held by videoconference on the 12 of June 2020.

"This coalition could mark an inflection - a real one - towards this synergy that we have always called for," said Mr. Bourita, praising France's efforts in this direction. "It is a strategic up-date. We are certain that it will bring more mobilization, more ownership and more coherence. These are, I think, the key words of the Pau Summit of 13 January," he stressed.

"This is the first time that we have such a promising combination of hard power and human security in the same initiative," added Mr. Bourita, noting that "the Coalition for the Sahel was right" and that "there is no stabilization without development, any more than there can be development without stabilization".

For nearly two decades now, the haunting problem of security in the Sahel has been a constant and acute one, he noted, regretting that it is still "worrying as recent developments underline" with, in particular, deteriorating security conditions in the region (the number of people killed following terrorist attacks has quintupled since 2016, a widening radius of violence and a disintegrating social fabric).

Furthermore, the Minister stressed that "endemic poverty and persistent food insecurity are worsening" and that "demographic pressure continues to weigh on development efforts", judging that "one cannot, therefore, disagree with a Coalition around this same awareness of duty".

But there are also reasons to remain hopeful: the international attention directed towards the Sahel is alive and well, the rise in operational strength of the G5 Force, the indispensable positive action of UNMISMA and its support, the peaceful legislative elections in Mali on 29 March and 19 April, despite the insecurity and fear linked to the pandemic and the essential contribution of regional organizations (ECOWAS) ..., he said.

Referring to the effectiveness and sustainability of this initiative, Mr. Bourita sent a message based on a set of principles. Above all, the principle of leadership which is "essential" and which must "be that of the States of the region", he explained, specifying in this sense that "we are only there to support them".

But also "flexibility", which is just as important, noted the official, dwelling on the duty to "provide flexible responses to the various challenges and not get lost in negotiating texts and resolutions".

In the same vein, "we must avoid +friendly fire+'", he stressed, "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)," Mr. Bourita recalled, stating that "these vital gains must be preserved, it is important that this same force is not in any way compromised by the deployment - without prior consultation with the actors on the ground - of new forces that could weaken it, instead of strengthening it".

"We need to reconcile political consultation and political commitment. In the same concern for coherence, the coalition benefits from having a Political Charter and a permanent Secretariat. The governance of the Coalition is made necessary by the need for political and operational steering of the implementation of its 4 pillars, as much as by the articulation of the initiatives it is called upon to oversee - such as the Sahel Alliance and the P3S", he said.

Mr. Bourita also underlined that "people must be at the center of any initiative", for if they are "at the heart of suffering", "they must also be at the heart of the responses," distinguishing "economic security and social stability" which are "strategic goals" from national unity and reconciliation, which are "political and operational objectives".

"A comprehensive approach is necessary, it must also include the primordial role of ECOWAS," he said, noting that "victory against terrorism will be multidimensional (military, security, political, socio-economic and cultural), or it will not be".

In addition, the Minister stressed that "while military and security action is an essential part of the response to terrorism, it should ensure this subtle balance, which prevents it from unintentionally fuelling the spiral of violence", considering that "the association of the United Nations, as co-leader of this initiative alongside France, the G5 and the EU, would be a guarantee of inclusion and an addition to legitimacy, including in the eyes of the populations".