EU Must Work with Local Actors to Secure Stability and Human Rights in Sahel

Key rapporteurs on the human rights situation in the Sahel Charles Tannock and Mariya Gabriel look at the major issues facing the region.
Charles Tannock is parliament's rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Sahel region 

My report on human rights in the Sahel is necessarily wide-ranging, but its most pressing element, naturally, addresses the disaster in Mali. Although we can be cautiously optimistic that the worst of the crisis is over, it is not yet finished, with several hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons waiting to return home, and the fragile peace being jeopardised by sporadic skirmishes and suicide bombings. 

The long process of reconciliation must also begin with Mali's different communities, and, certainly, Tuareg resentments over many decades must be addressed not simply in Mali, but across the region. But reconciliation will not work without justice where it is due: Mali must be seen as a prototype for the success of judicial institutions and the rule of law. 

Too often in the Sahel region, war crimes and crimes against humanity have been met with institutional impunity. For this reason, the recent Senegalese indictment of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, and of course the international criminal court's investigation into Malian crimes, are to be greatly welcomed.

I have tried in the report to emphasise the need for a coherent strategy across the Sahel, which combines an awareness of human rights with the imperative of boosting security, tackling radicalisation, clamping down on the trafficking of people, arms and drugs, and above all, improving governance and the accountability and legitimacy of state and regional institutions. The report makes a particular point of advocating the decentralisation of power, and boosting the role of civil society. 

We must also address the situation of women, children and minorities, including child labour, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and, especially in Mauritania, the issue of slavery, though of course this is extremely contentious and vigorously disputed by the Mauritanian authorities.

In short, the EU must work with local actors to develop security, stability and human rights in synthesis. Human rights are markedly absent from the EU Sahel strategy, so this is an area where we can do more to contribute. If, similarly, we can bring different voices together on western Sahara and positively influence the situation there in some small way, then I hope the report can be considered a success.

Mariya Gabriel is parliament's women's rights and gender quality (FEMM) committee opinion rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Sahel region 

First of all, I would like to stress that it is very important that the European parliament has adopted the report on the situation of human rights in the Sahel region, because it once again demonstrates the commitment of the EU to the region. The emergency situation in Mali has drawn much attention of the EU in particular, but there are fundamental and recurrent problems in the region. 

State building is a priority for the stabilisation and for the protection of civilians. We can welcome that this week a general consultation on decentralisation in Mali was held, which reflects the desire to strengthen the state while taking into account the root causes of a recurrent conflict. The fight against impunity is a second priority in the region, otherwise the country will not get out of the cycle of violence which strongly inhibits development. Finally, democratisation will be an essential condition of a sustainable stabilisation of the region. 

These are the three priorities that will improve the situation of human rights in the Sahel. The EU can play a role of institutional and humanitarian assistance, but the leadership for reforms should be taken by the states of the region. 

In the FEMM committee, we focused on the role of women in conflict resolution, peace-making and reconstruction, to go beyond the condemnation of violence against women, including rape as a weapon of war. We must protect women and fight against sexual violence in times of conflict and in times of reconstruction, but we must also look beyond and enable them to become agents of peace and development.


PN Member Charles Tannock, British MEP, was appointed as a Special Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Human Rights in Sahel Region and Western Sahara last December.


Originally published by The Parliament.

Photo by Makadaka.

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