Mauritania and Senegal recently decided to join forces in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. In this, they follow Algeria, which is exerting greater efforts and acting with vigilance after the bloody attack against the gas plant of In Amenas that killed 38 foreigners.
This fight, however, is inefficient without the involvement of the citizens, who are targeted by a comprehensive public-awareness campaign against terrorism and organized crime along the border. Both banks of the Senegal River, which geographically unites the two neighboring countries are part of an intense campaign calling on citizens to join their efforts with the joint military missions to combat the acts of terror that are gradually spilling into the Sahel region.
With the threat of terrorism expanding at an alarming rate across the world, cross-border crime and weapons and drug trafficking are the focal point for this campaign. According to its organizers, the peace and safety of the villagers rely on the success of their efforts. It is for this reason that they have stepped up their call for more involvement in this fight. These individuals alert civilian and military authorities of any suspicious person or group that might threaten security.
This region, on the banks of the Senegal River, supports fishing as well as pastoral activities shared by both communities. It is probable that the infiltration of Islamist militants would exacerbate the socioeconomic situation of the already fragile Mauritanian and Senegalese societies.
Mauritania has not sent troops to Mali, but its determination to fight terrorism has not changed from that outlined by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Nov. 29, 2012, during the news conference he organized in his country's capital, Nouakchott.
"Mauritania has had the opportunity in the past to intervene beyond its borders to protect itself from terrorists who attacked and killed its citizens," said the Mauritanian leader at the news conference.
The events currently going on in Mali and the French military intervention, which intensely shelled positions previously occupied by armed terrorist groups, have completely changed the regional climate. The resulting negative consequences will certainly affect Mauritania, which shares around 2,400 km of its border with Mali. The porousness of this border, particularly due to a shortage in the human and material resources required to ensure reliable monitoring, put the Mauritanian territory at particular risk of infiltration by terrorist elements who are likely to target French nationals for kidnappings and attacks.
Given the probability that terrorists have mingled with the civilian population along the Malian border, foreign nationals are strongly advised to be vigilant. This combination of circumstances has driven the Mauritanian government to mobilize all resources at its disposal to protect the country against possible terrorist infiltration with malevolent goals.
"We will spare no effort to defend our territorial integrity and the security of our citizens and their property, even if this takes us beyond our borders." This statement from the head of Mauritania on Nov. 29, 2012, in Nouakchott proves the willingness of the Mauritanian authorities to fight terrorism and all criminal networks that revolve around it, if necessary.
The recruitment of young Mauritanians into various armed terrorist groups like Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has drawn the attention of the religious class to this phenomenon, which is spreading at an alarming rate. These people have joined the government in calling on Mauritanian youth to move away from radical and extremist ideologies that "distort the image of Islam that is based on tolerance and respect for others."
In the same context, the Maliki imams across the Sahel have resolutely decided to combine their efforts and work to educate the youth about the dangers of extremism. The issue of idleness, which remains one of the major causes for the present situation, led European leaders to seriously consider the topic at a meeting in Brussels. According to the European leaders, the stability of the Arab Maghreb both politically and economically is an important milestone in the fight against international terrorism.
Kaci Racelma is an Algerian journalist with Inter Press Service news agency and Afrik.com, an online magazine. He covers the North African region.