Senegal-Mauritania : "Beyond gas development, the terrorist threat calls for a pooling of security capabilities". Spécial

In an interview with the national daily "Le Soleil", Bakary Sambe, Regional Director of the Timbuktu Institute- African Center for Peace Studies, maintains that the choice of Mauritania for President Bassirou Diomaye Faye's first official visit is "logical and diplomatically relevant." 

President Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye made his first international visit to Mauritania on Thursday April 18. How do you explain the choice of this neighboring country for his first official visit as Head of State ?

The choice of Mauritania for President Bassirou Diomaye Faye's first international outing speaks for itself, as it is both logical and diplomatically relevant. You know, when it comes to Senegal-Mauritania relations, some diplomats often speak of a single people in two sister states. These relations, which are first and foremost human, are rooted in a deep shared history that predates the international existence of the two countries. It has been historically established that the Trarza and Guidimakha regions, among others, have formed a socio-cultural and human continuum that has given rise to an infinite number of interminglings and interactions, explaining better than any other factor the enduring nature of relations between Senegal and Mauritania. Diplomatic relations have steadily strengthened, and have been further intensified by recent hydrocarbon discoveries, which have in fact established another community of destiny in addition to historical relations, in a complex geopolitical context and a reconfiguration of international relations and relationships. Mauritania's current presidency of the African Union, following on from that of the Comoros and Senegal, should be part of the same effort to better assert Africa's changing status, in an unprecedented context where the geopolitical shift of our continent towards any bloc could have a lasting impact on the international balance of power. The arrival at the head of Senegal of a President belonging to a new generation aware of the need for better pan-African positioning, coinciding with Mauritania's presidency of the African Union, should help reaffirm this need for synergy in the defense of the continent's economic and geostrategic interests. President Ghazouani, who was among the heads of state present at Bassirou Diomaye Faye's investiture, is well aware of the historic need for a pan-African shift that does not exclude openness to the world, but is deeply rooted in the defense of the continent's interests. 

What are the security, political and economic implications of this visit ?

Clearly, the strategic nature of such a visit cannot be overlooked in a Sahelian and West African context undergoing profound change, and facing the greatest security challenges with the terrorist threat no longer recognizing borders. There is also the reconfiguration of alliances at sub-regional level, and the new role that is taking shape for Senegal to reinforce while consolidating and, where necessary, evolving sub-regional and African integration. Security cooperation between the two countries, which has even become decentralized with the involvement of territorial and local administrations, will need to be strengthened, as a form of common security is now essential to both countries. The strategy of insistence and harassment on the part of terrorist groups in the absence of any real logistical anchorage on the territory, the sporadic minor attacks from the Wagadou Forest through the neighboring Kayes region, as well as infiltration attempts from the Melga area - commune of Djelegou, Cercle de Kayes - on the Guidimakha continuum linking Mauritania, Senegal and Mali and leading towards Sélibabi and Bakel are sufficient signals for the reinforcement or even intensification of security cooperation. In this respect, the two countries are called upon to exchange best practices with Mauritania's experience in counter-terrorism, as well as Senegal's experience in prevention, which has so far been effective, and in building resilience through a mixed approach integrating human security dimensions by opening up infrastructure and securing exposed regions, as well as the full involvement of local communities. In addition to their socio-cultural proximity, the two countries have everything to gain from a strengthened synergy based on their relevant levers and, above all, the pooling of their capacities.

What levers should the two Heads of State use to further consolidate their bilateral relations ?

The two Heads of State appear to have discussed at length the joint project for the Grand Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) natural gas field on their maritime border, developed by the UK's BP with the American Kosmos Energy, the Société mauritanienne des hydrocarbures (SMH) and Senegal's state-owned Petrosen. This structuring economic cooperation project alone perfectly illustrates the hyper-strategic nature of the relationship between the two countries. This visit was a fundamental issue and a relevant choice in the current context, but the cooperation deserves to be deepened and pursued with a greater constant forward-looking approach. The calming strategy adopted in the joint management of the Grande Tortue Ahmeyim block has been the least confrontational, in keeping with the nature of our relations and a guarantee of stability, enabling the two countries concerned to exploit the resource serenely and sustainably. Our country seems to be well prepared, with all the mechanisms put in place with this in mind. For this reason, Senegal could adopt a dual strategy of co-efficiency and enhanced cooperation with Mauritania in the context of capacity sharing, in particular by supporting the training of Mauritanian executives and managers of the gas resource vital to both our countries, using the opportunities offered by the Institut National du Pétrole et du Gaz (INPG). It would even be possible to consider facilitating access to the INPG for private Mauritanians in all their diversity, as well as for public sector executives from this friendly country. What's more, this scientific cooperation is underpinned by a long tradition of university exchanges, perpetuated by generations of senior Mauritanian executives who have been trained in Senegal, including some of today's political and economic leaders.