The Director General, State Intelligence Service of the Republic of The Gambia, Ousman Sowe, attended a high-level consultative peace and security meeting held in Niamey, Niger from 19th – 20th January, 2023 under the auspices of the Independent high-level panel on security and development in the Sahel, launched in September 2022 by the UN Secretary General and African leaders during the 77th UN General Assembly.
The high-level panel was chaired by H.E. Mr Mahamadou Issoufou, Former President of Niger and composed of Dr Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, Ambassador Leila Zerrougui of Algeria, Maitre Sohoyata Maiga of Mali and Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas of Ghana.
The two-day consultative meeting, conducted within the context of the security situation in the Sahel region was attended by Panel Members, resource persons and high ranking officials from the Intelligence and Security Services of the West Africa and Sahel region to conduct a strategic assessment of the security situation in the Sahel, Sahara and Gulf of Guinea and make actionable recommendations on ways to foster international engagement and map out joint and coordinated regional and international responses to the region’s security and developmental challenges.
The meeting was also attended by dignitaries from the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), G5-Sahel Executive Secretariat, the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), the Committee on Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the Sahel Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL).
The Director General, during the discussions, emphasised on the multilateral approach as well as the implementation and coordination of existing strategies and policies in the field of security and development. And in view of the many actors and initiatives existing in the region, he further contended that there is the need for coordination as well as the need for strengthening the capabilities of national security services, bolstering human security needs and opening the political space by addressing the drivers of conflict such as poverty leading to widespread youth vulnerability, illiteracy, ethnic tensions, youth bulge, unemployment etc.
The discussions and conclusions of the Niamey meeting provided, inter alia, a shared understanding of the scope, scale and magnitude of the security challenges, through a review of the current situation in wider region; exchanges on further evolution of current risks and threats to other areas in west Africa, including the Gulf of Guinea countries and Central Africa; articulate concrete measures for enhanced security cooperation among countries in the region; the establishment of a shared database of nationals of member countries in the region who have left to fight in the ranks of armed groups outside the continent and other terrorist groups.
The overall outcome of the Meeting was the opportunity where stakeholders, experts and resource persons and other dignitaries shared views and exchanged insightful regional and multilateral recommendations on issues impacting security and development in the region. These include, but not limited to, security governance in the Sahel, terrorism financing and violent extremism, radicalisation and reintegration at its different levels, refugee and internally displaced persons and camps as well as interstate cooperation and policing of the cyber space to detect and deter cyber security threats and related online criminal activities. The promotion of development policies to positively impact peoples’ lives and mitigate the painful economic effects caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and made acute by Russia-Ukraine conflict were also thoroughly discussed.