The security crisis: Sahel, Maghreb and European Union.

The choice of theme – Sahel, Maghreb and Europe Union – is topical and moreover operational, that is to say ready for implementation. It is indeed wise to link the long and multifaceted security crisis in the Sahel to the security of these two other geopolitical spaces, the Maghreb and Europe… its northern continuation.




The Maghreb and Europe, two regions, in many respects, linked to the Sahel by geography and history and which remain, like it, threatened by terrorism and the multiple illicit activities that support armed violence. Two reminders illustrate that relationship between the three regions.

First, it is difficult to dissociate the long multifaceted crisis in the Sahel from the retreat of terrorist violence that bloodied the Maghreb during the 1990-2000 decade. Their defeat consisted largely in pushing them down precisely towards the Sahel. The entrenchment of terrorism in this region dates precisely from this period.

Furthermore, and at the same time, the Sahel was becoming a transit point for powerful drug networks from South America targeting European markets. Hunted by the European security services, the Latin American / European drug trafficking networks gave up the North Atlantic route in favor of the “Saint Exupéry / Mermoz route”. Thus, small planes and later larger ones, laden with drugs, poured over the Sahel en route to their consumers in Europe. Money and insecurity came to the region.

Effective governance.

Today, beyond this violent past and the current consequences on the region of the war in Ukraine, the common priority of the three – EU, Maghreb and the Sahel – should go to the containment and elimination of terrorism structural causes in the Sahel. That is to say this region which extends from the Atlantic coasts to the borders of Sudan and whose epicenter remains the zone of the three borders (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger).

Obviously, the objective of the Sahel states is not to be an area of ​​trouble to themselves or their near or far away friends, but rather an area of ​​stability and prosperity for all. The terrorist presence, for more than ten years, goes against that ambition.

Precisely, the longer it lasts, the more terrorism turns into a lucrative economic-political activity. Its digging is currently the real challenge for all.

Successfully combating terrorism calls, first of all, for a national consensus on good governance. The support or at least the understanding by citizens of their governments’ activities is a precondition for that. When populations are indifferent or hostile populations to their governments’ activities, terrorism cannot be reduced, let alone defeated. Their support requires governance where endemic and unpunished corruption is no longer the rule. It is corruption that encourages and nourishes the power of networks parallel to the state: tribalism, regionalism and castes systems. And this is how it discredits the effectiveness of government messages and actions. The ongoing “re-tribalization” of certain states in the Sahel, including at the level of the security services, perceived more as clan – based than nationals, is a powerful stimulus to terrorism. Beyond the ideological bases, it is stimulated by corruption. A corruption that, through tribal networks, feeds on various lucrative traffics in drugs, cigarettes as well as in African migratory movements, within and outside the continent. Hopes do exist that the future International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) with members such as judge Richard Goldstone, would play a dissuasive role in this field.

Sandwiched for over two decades between the powerful drug producers of South America and their consumer markets in Europe and confronted with jihadists from elsewhere, the Sahel is paying a very high price. However, in the region some groups and not the least accommodated themselves very well.

Blaming is not a solution.

Throughout the world, the longer a security crisis lasts, the more it manages to fuel itself with its own misdeeds. That applies to the Sahel which, however, is not doomed to remain a zone of permanent insecurity.

In order to marginalize terrorism, failing for the moment to defeat it, the Sahel governments should first consolidate their national political fronts: ethnic, religious and political. Tribal or clan governance reinforces and strengthens radical armed movements.

At this level, the Sahel should update cooperation between countries within a G 5 Sahel strengthened by and extended to countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Relations with the Maghreb states, always very sensitive, and those with the concerned and interested states of the European Union deserve greater priority.

Finally, in the Sahel, the mining resources currently in exploitation, gold in particular and to come, in particular gas, call for responsible management in order to avoid the “Dutch disease” or the curse of natural resources.

With a strong demographic dynamic that will not stabilize in the short term, rapid and uncontrolled urbanization and above all a climatic environment threatened from outside and from within, the region calls for a successful broad political consensus to managing a responsible policy.

This immense task calls for cooperation between the Sahel and its main partners, indeed including the Maghreb and the European Union.

In that context, the initiative around the Sahel, Maghreb and the EU, undertaken by the Francisco Vitoria University, deserves the support of all parties. Its success could develop dynamics around fruitful tripartite security cooperation and beyond it.

Thank you.


Francisco Vitoria University, Madrid 15/16 July 2022

Statement of Ahmedou Ould Abdallah President centre4s.