Securing the borders of the Maghreb and the Sahel
While States in the Maghreb and Sahel subregions of Africa struggle to manage thousands of kilometres of porous borders, organized criminals and terrorist groups try to exploit vulnerabilities and take advantage of the subregions’ strategic location.
Irregular migration and drug and arms trafficking threaten border security and pose challenges to all the States in the subregions. Governments' lack of resources, including for equipment and adequate training, to secure vast land and maritime borders has also facilitated the activities of terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate (CTED) have been monitoring the situation closely throughout the years, as part of their efforts to assist States in implementing counter-terrorism measures in line with Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005). To this end, they have engaged in constructive dialogue with all states in the Maghreb and Sahel region and have conducted more detailed assessment missions to eight of these, namely Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal.
Officials from these eight States came together in Nouakchott from 4 to 6 April 2011 to discuss practical ways in which they could strengthen their counter-terrorism efforts. International and regional partners also participated in the workshop.
“A coherent and coordinated approach can go a long way towards improving the chances States in the area have to prevent terrorists from organizing and moving freely across borders,” said Mike Smith, head of CTED. “This means national authorities in different agencies need to share information with each other, follow a common strategy and transfer this spirit of cooperation to the regional level.”
Joint border posts and community policing are among the good practices identified by participants, who also indicated that extending access to INTERPOL databases to all border posts would help officials identify and stop wanted persons from crossing borders.
Recognizing the impact that conflicts have had in the region, participants said that combating arms trafficking is essential to preventing terrorists from acquiring the weapons they need to carry out their acts. Smuggled arms are sometimes transported by people and sometimes by cargo, a security concern that should be addressed.
Participants agreed that developing a subregional counter-terrorism strategy would improve cooperation. Such a strategy would be complemented by an institutional and operational subregional platform for the exchange of information.
The workshop in Nouakchott was organized by the International Organization for Migration in close cooperation with CTED. This event was the second in a series that the Executive Directorate designed with its partners to address challenges related to border control. The previous workshop was conducted in East Africa.