The Center for Strategies and Security for the Sahel Sahara
The Center 4S
The Sahel Sahara Region
For easy understanding, in this note, the Sahel Sahara region is defined as follows. First, the hard core of the Sahara is the vast space cutting across the common borders of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Second, the Sahel is the band of land stretching on its western end from Mauritania down to Guinea – Conakry along the Atlantic coast and, across the savannah, to Sudan on its eastern end. Therefore, many African countries are closely interlinked to the issues of interest or concerns to Sahel Sahara Region*. In the hard core of the region, the living conditions remain harsh, employment opportunities rare and despite porous borders, trade, exchanges and meetings between communities, separated by these national borders are still difficult and costly despite improvements
Politically, the region has gone through turbulent and even violent times especially in the 1990s. Moreover, the emergences of international terrorism and drug trafficking in the heart of the region since the early 2000s have aggravated its security situation and continues to challenge its economic development and political progress. Irregular migrations, from and through the region, to Europe and the rampant criminalization of its economies have added more reasons for concerns to the central governments. Finally, due to its vast and under-administrated territories and the limited economic opportunities, the security situation should not to improve soon in the Sahel. More importantly, it is not anticipated that continued insecurity will remain confined solely to the region. If not tackled seriously, and on many fronts at the same time, insecurity will be more entrenched within the states and the risks of spillovers to their respective neighbors will be even higher. Fallouts can also reach far away countries. Worse, a protracted crisis will affect the political gains made over the last few years and impede the much needed development of the Sahel Sahara immense natural resources.
Despite these serious threats and risks – publicized by recent hostage taking, the Sahel Sahara offers important chances and opportunities in many fields. Its vast mineral wealth, especially in strategic resources such as oil, gas and uranium but also gold, bauxite and phosphates, make it highly attractive for international investors. Competition between major corporations, from the region itself and from both its old and new partners is intense in these fields. A scramble for oil, gas and uranium is taking place in this “future energy frontier”. There is fear that insecurity could be used to obtain better contractual terms from smaller governments or even to delay the effective exploitation of their energy resources by deterring other competitors. Finally, with the progress in research and calls for environmental protection, solar energy, an uncontested main “product’’ of the region, will be more appealing.
If the present situation continues as it does now, i.e. relegated to ad – hoc approaches and solutions, and calls for external interventions, it would only degenerate into further violence, weakening of the states’ security institutions and of regional cooperation. The combination, in the same vast area, of multiple unwelcome activities: the traffic in drugs, cigarettes, humans and of armed radicals has not been helpful in Afghanistan or Latin America. In the Sahel Sahara this explosive combination will have, at least similar if not, far more devastating consequences.
There is a need and urgency to look at these multiple and related problems in a comprehensive manner. The region’s security, economic, political, and diplomatic dimensions cannot be sequenced and should therefore be addressed simultaneously. The region has established a Joint Military Committee (JMC) based in Tamanrasset, Algeria, intended to harmonize security strategies. This initiative by the most concerned states is commendable and deserves full support from international partners, including the private sector, in their efforts for sustainable peace in the region. It is in this overall context that the Centre for Strategies and Security in the Sahel and Sahara (Centre 4 S) is established.
The Aim of the Centre 4S
The aim of the Centre 4 S is to study, analyze and propose actions for current and future problems of interest to the states in the Sahel Sahara, and to their partners. The main added value of Centre 4 S is to promote a pragmatic approach to the real problems affecting the life of the people and the future of the states in the region. Its ambition is to be a prime partner for governments and other institutions concerned by and interested in current and future developments in the Sahel Sahara. The ultimate objective of the Centre 4 S is to help the region take the lead in transforming its daunting security and developments challenges into opportunities. Thus, enhancing its chances of remaining an actor and not becoming an issue of concern, or viewed as an added source of instability for the international community.
* The Centre covers the following countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, Chad, Cameroun, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and The Gambia.
The following countries are concerned: Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Togo and