Thursday, 31.03.2022 - Friday, 01.04.2022 - Dakar - Senegal

3rd Edition of the Sahel-Sahara Dialogue "Prospects for Sustainable Peace in the Sahel : What Inclusive Responses to Security Instability in the Sahel-Sahara and West Africa?

From 31 March to 1 April 2022, the Peace and Security Competence Centre of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES PSCC) organised in Dakar the 3rd edition of the regional conference Sahel-Sahara Dialogue on the theme "Prospects for a sustainable peace in the Sahel : what inclusive responses to security instability in the Sahel-Sahara and West Africa ? This third edition of the Sahel-Sahara aimed: to establish a permanent framework for dialogue between the countries of the region for better collective security, to share relevant and effective experiences of resilience in the face of insecurity, and to make proposals for progressive or alternative approaches to promote more sustainable peace and stability in the Sahel and in West Africa. The meeting was attended by academics, researchers, representatives of defence and security forces, research institutes, diplomatic institutions and civil society organisations from the region.

For years, the countries of the Sahel-Saharan region and West Africa have been grappling with a succession of political, humanitarian and security crises with negative impacts on peace and development. The threats of destabilisation in this region include a broad spectrum of economic and social factors (poverty and inequality), unfulfilled constitutional and political reforms, conflicts over access to and exploitation of scarce natural resources due to climate change, inter-community tensions, among others. In addition to these structuring factors, there is the weakness of democratic institutions and defence and security forces, which sometimes play a dysfunctional role, a weakened civil society, the lack of transparency of elites who enjoy a deficient legitimacy, and the majority of the population who do not benefit from the 'peace dividend'. Insecurity is also fuelled by the presence of radical Islamist groups and cross-border crime, which is facilitated by the vastness of the territories, the porous nature of the borders, the limited capacities of the states in the region, the illegal circulation of SALW and, above all, the absence of clear strategies at national level. The typology of these destabilising security challenges and threats and their transnationality as well as their rapid regional spread therefore call for an integrated response from the states of West Africa and the Sahel.

Despite major efforts to ensure stability and lasting peace in the Sahel and West Africa, it must be said that the proposed solutions remain insufficient or even ineffective to date. This is evidenced by the frequent extremist and criminal attacks with their recurrent loss of civilian and military lives, the displaced people who continue to flee their villages, and the resurgence of coups d'état (Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry). This prompted the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed IBN CHAMBAS, to admit this state of affairs before the United Nations Security Council in January 2018. Similarly, the inconsistent approaches of international partners have led to misunderstandings, which limit their effectiveness and reduce the will to collectively resolve common security challenges. Coordinated and collective approaches that address the root causes of the current crises in the region are urgently needed to effectively respond to dynamic and hybrid security threats. In the Sahel-Sahara and West Africa, the challenge is certainly the communitarisation of security, i.e. the possibility of considering security in a collective manner. It will be necessary to act flexibly and inclusively and to obtain the support of governments and the population. States are therefore called upon to coordinate their actions and policies to combat the criminal and terrorist groups that use their territories as safe havens, exploiting the fragility of institutions and aggravating the already precarious security situation in the region. This means integrating national security policies into a comprehensive Sahelo-Sahelian security and defence policy to promote better collective security in the face of security challenges in the region and in West Africa. 

The introductory proceedings of the conference focused more on the need to rethink resilience and conflict resolution, in particular by focusing on the final resolution of conflicts and not exclusively on their settlement. To do this, responses must take into account the specificities of the Sahel-Sahara zone and West Africa. Africa must resolve its conflicts by drawing on its endogenous knowledge and practices. This requires a better appropriation of the concepts used by partners to describe the current situation on the continent. It is also necessary to restore trust between people and political leaders and to train people in the principles of democracy by boosting political dialogue.

The conference panels focused on the following themes respectively :

  • Analysis of the socio-political and security dynamics in the Sahel and their impact on the stability of the region.
  • What cross-border cooperation between Sahelian states to effectively address common security challenges ?
  • The need to rethink the security response in the Sahel : what coherent strategies to promote sustainable stability in the region ?
  • Sharing experiences and best practices for sustainable peace and stability in the Sahel and West Africa ?
  • Prospects for sustainable peace in the Sahel : what inclusive responses to security instability in the Sahel and West Africa ?

Overall, most of the analyses and findings below point to the following :

  • The crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa is complex and multidimensional and the security situation remains worrying;
  • Institutional challenges are a permanent source of instability ;
  • The jihadist insurgency is on the rise ;
  • The weakness and powerlessness of states in the face of rising insecurity ;
  • The difference in national priorities ;
  • The preservation of national sovereignty and the defence of strategic interests ;
  • Historical political tensions between states ;
  • Lack of funding and strategic autonomy ;
  • The difference between security cultures and political systems etc ;
  • The limits of security interventions under the impulse of external actors (Minusma, Barkhane, Takuba) ;
  • The rise of social unrest in the face of the failure of the powers that be to tackle insecurity ;
  • Innovative mechanisms for conflict prevention and regulation should be promoted to complement the classic mechanisms that have reached their limits.

The exchanges and discussions between experts and actors highlighted several recommendations :

  • Disband militias and self-defence groups ;
  • Actively listen to the population and adapt responses to their needs ;
  • Revisit traditional mechanisms and adapt them to current challenges ;
  • Refocus the state's role in protecting the population ;
  • Harmonise border management procedures ;
  • Involve border populations in the search for solutions and in development policies ;
  • Define joint modalities of military cooperation for greater efficiency ;
  • Federate the Accra initiative with other existing initiatives ;
  • Develop joint initiatives endogenously ;
  • Strengthen the strategic autonomy of the Sahel countries in the fight against terrorism and cross-border crime ;
  • Create a security information and intelligence centre in the Sahel-Sahara ;
  • Harmonise the intervention of external actors ;
  • Disseminate the F.O.R.C.-G experience and the "Citizenship Cases" in the Sahel-Saharan area ;
  • Promote inter or intra-community dialogue.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Paix et Sécurité Centre de Compétence Afrique Subsaharienne

P.O. Box 15 416
Point E, boulevard de l’Est villa n°30
Dakar - Fann

+221 33 859 20 02

info(at)fes-pscc.org
www.fes-pscc.org
pscc.fes.de

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