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People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Community Abroad

Conference of the Minister Attaf at "Chatham House" on the Sahel

Good afternoon to all,

  1. Let me start by expressing my deep gratitude to you, Mr. Chair, for organizing this event, and for giving me the opportunity to share with you and with this esteemed audience our perspectives on the evolving situation in the Sahel region and on the role that Algeria has assumed and continues to assume therein as a committed neighbor, partner and peace broker. 
  2. As you may already know, I am here in London for the second session of the Algeria-UK strategic dialogue in its new configuration, a dialogue that has proven very fruitful and useful in terms of strengthening our bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation and partnership, as well as in terms of deepening our mutual understanding of the ever-increasing challenges to peace and security, both at the regional and at the international levels.
  3. And obviously the developments in the Sahel region will continue to feature prominently in our discussions. Because what happens in that region cannot be ignored neither in Africa, nor in Europe, as the Sahel has become a front line in the war against so many threats of global reach.  
  4. Being neighbor to the countries that make-up the heart of the African Sahel, my country’s interest is mainly driven by genuine considerations pertaining to the promotion of sustainable peace and shared prosperity for all, as well as by the historical ties of solidarity, cooperation and mutual support that have long existed with each and every sisterly country in the region.  
  5. From Algeria’s point of view, when we talk about the Sahel region, we need to be mindful of five disturbing facts:

The first disturbing fact:  is that this region is one of the poorest regions worldwide.

The Sahel region includes indeed eleven (11) countries of whom many are considered among the top twenty (20) least developed countries in the world, according to the Human Development Index.

With up to 80% of its people living on less than $2 a day, poverty is more widespread in the Sahel than in any other part of Africa.

The second disturbing fact: is that this region accounts more armed conflicts and crisis situations than any other region in the world.

The global overview of the Sahel displays currently what I call an “arc of fire” that stretches from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, with many armed conflicts and multidimensional crises that continue to mar countries like Sudan, Chad, Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Western Sahara.   

The third disturbing fact: is that this region has quickly become the global epicenter of the scourge of terrorism.

Only in 2022, the Sahel alone has registered more than 43% of global terrorism deaths, while 15 years back (in 2007), that percentage did not exceed 1%.

This comparison, though limited in scope, tells a lot about how fast the terrorist threat has spread over the Sahel region, particularly in the aftermath of the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

The particularity of this worrying situation lies in the fact that the terrorist groups operating therein:

  • are considered among the fastest growing and most-deadly worldwide;
  • they are heavily armed and equipped with sophisticated weapons and artillery;
  • they master incredibly skillful military strategies;
  • and lastly, they have expanded their control over huge geographical areas where they do act as the de-facto local authorities. In this regard, it is worth noting that:
  • According to a report released last July by the United Nations, terrorist groups have doubled the area under their control in northern Mali, during the last year.
  • Burkina Faso has lost its control over 70% of its territory.
  • Niger has lost its control over the area of the three frontiers, as well as over large parts of its northern territory.  

Furthermore, in the context of MINUSMA’s withdrawal from Mali, and the dismantling of other regional security arrangements (G5 and Berkhane), terrorist groups will have more opportunities to fortify their strongholds within Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as within the Liptako Gourma region, which borders the three countries, while expanding their influence in the southern region. Neighboring countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin have already started to feel the threat and the added pressure exerted by emboldened terrorist groups.   

The fourth disturbing fact: is that the Sahel region has become the most politically instable in the world, as it has been heavily rocked by several military coups d’états.

In the last three years, the Sahel has known eight unconstitutional changes of governments: in Mali (twice), in Burkina Faso (twice), in Guinea, in Chad, in Soudan, and recently in Niger which has long been described as a beacon of stability in this mostly troubled region.  

In all these countries, military governments are still in power and the promised political transitions are completely stalled at least in the short term. This situation has created unprecedented challenges not only for the concerned countries, but also for the entire region, as it threatens to blow the harmony between the countries of this most balkanized region in Africa.  

 

The fifth and last disturbing fact: is that the Sahel region has recently become another stage of geopolitical competition between international major powers.

We have all seen how the change in the region’s political outlook has affected relations with external actors who have rival interests and conflicting agendas on the ground.

This development adds more complexity to the situation as it would further undermine prospects for achieving sustainable peace, political stability, and economic growth.

Mr. Chair,

Distinguished participants,

  1. This is the overall context in which Algeria carries out its role as a stabilizing force in the Sahel region, through an active diplomacy for promoting peace and development.
  2. In this regard, based on the principles that shaped the identity of its foreign policy, notably non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of conflicts, cooperation and solidarity, Algeria’s efforts have been structured around three main pillars:
  • Firstly, undertaking mediations to put an end to political crises and armed conflicts;
  • Secondly, spearheading regional cooperation in the face of trans-border threats;
  • Thirdly, supporting development projects in neighboring countries of the Sahel region.

Concerning Algeria’s mediation efforts:

  1. I would like to recall that, since the early nineties (90s), Algeria has been actively engaged in peaceful resolution of crises and conflicts in the region.
  2. In the Republic of Mali alone, Algeria has undertaken many successful mediations which have led to the conclusion of four peace agreements between the Central Government in Bamako and the Touareg Movements in the North of the Country.

These agreements are:

  • the Tamanrasset Accord of 1991;
  • the National Pact of 1992;
  • the Algiers Accords of 2006;
  • and lastly, the Algiers Agreement of 2015, which is still in force as none of the signatory parties has denounced it so far, despite the ongoing challenges on the ground.    

The current situation in the North of Mali is indeed threatening to jeopardize all the achievements of the 2015 Agreement, against the background of the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the UN Mission (MINUSMA).

In its capacity as the leader of the International Mediation and Chair of the Monitoring Committee for this Agreement, Algeria continues to plead with all the parties involved in the ongoing military confrontations that the current situation will not benefit any of them, but the terrorist groups. Our work therefore continues unabated to convince all the parties to return to the negotiating table, with the aim of seeking a compromise that will preserve the peace dividends of the 2015 Agreement.

  1. In the Republic of Niger, Algeria has served as one the mediators involved to help resolve the crisis that erupted in 1994 between the Central Government in Niamey and the Touareg Movements in the North of the country. The talks led to the signing of the Ouagadougou agreement in October that year.

Algeria was also involved in the settlement of crisis situations that this sisterly country had experienced throughout its modern history, notably following unconstitutional changes of Governments that happened therein back in 1974, in 1996, in 1999, and in 2010. And this is why, Algeria was the first to propose a comprehensive plan for the political resolution of the crisis that emerged recently in Niger following the coup d’état of the 26 July.   

  1. I can certainly go on and brief you on other mediation initiatives undertaken by Algeria in other countries of the Sahel region further to the extreme east or west, but I prefer to limit myself to these two neighboring countries, as they seem to be more pertinent to the subject at hand.
  2. However, before concluding on this part, I would like to emphasize the rationale behind Algeria’s mediation efforts. This can be summarized in three points:
  • Firstly, military interventions are not the solution in a region that is already facing a myriad of hybrid security crises;
  • Secondly, military interventions can be avoided with intensive diplomatic efforts;
  • And thirdly, political solutions are always possible and within our reach provided that there is a political will and a genuine commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

I pass now to the second pillar of Algeria’s efforts in the Sahel, which concerns the promotion of regional cooperation in the face of trans-border threats.

  1. And here, I would like to recall that Algeria has always advocated and worked with its sisterly neighboring countries for:
  • enhancing coordination;
  • strengthening border control;
  • encouraging intelligence sharing;
  • and promoting operational coordination in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
  1. These efforts have led to the establishment, in 2010, of a Joint Military Operations Structure, known as the CEMOC, as well as to the creation of a Joint intelligence cell known as the Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL) for the Sahel.
  2. The CEMOC was planned to serve as a privileged regional mechanism for cooperation in the fight against terrorism, however this objective was thwarted by the foreign military intervention undertaken in Mali during the same period, as well as by the emergence later on of competing regional mechanisms (G5-Sahel).
  3. In the context of the worrying proportions taken by the threat of terrorism in the region, Algeria has taken the initiative earlier this year to reactivate the CEMOC by proposing a new mandate to this military structure that includes notably joint patrols and joint operational activities in the fight against terrorism. Negotiations on this project are still ongoing among the four countries of the CEMOC: Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Lastly, I will touch on the third pillar of Algeria’s stabilizing efforts in the Sahel, which has to do with supporting the implementation of development projects.

  1. Algeria’s engagement in this area is underpinned by our firm conviction that there can be no peace without development. And I can tell you with much confidence that the nexus between peace and development is more pertinent in the Sahel region, than in any other region of the world.
  2. In addition to humanitarian actions, debt cancellation, scholarships programs and other solidarity initiatives, Algeria’s efforts have recently focused on what is commonly known as “Quick Impact Projects”. These include financing and implementing projects of primary schools, health centers, water drilling, electricity grid, and vocational training.  
  1. Our modest experience has amply proven that these five essential services, while being the most needed in the region, are more effective and efficient in helping the concerned populations settle down and avoid the perils of illegal migration.
  2. Building on this experience and through the National Agency of International Cooperation for Solidarity and Development, we have been engaged in serious talks with many European partners to seek support for the implementation of these kinds of development projects in countries of the Sahel through triangular cooperation.
  3. I will conclude my presentation here, and I thank you most sincerely for your kind attention. I hope I have been successful in flagging the most pertinent issues, and I look forward to your comments, observations, and questions.

Thank you.

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