Report approved on troubled African region

Charles Tannock MEP today welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of his comprehensive report on the Sahel region of Africa.

Charles Tannock MEP today welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of his comprehensive report on the Sahel region of Africa.

The Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in the parliament said: “My concern was to highlight the region’s appalling problems of cruelty, suffering and persecution while stressing that solutions must involve working with its people, politicians and other agencies. I am pleased such a large majority of MEPs now supports this roadmap for engagement.”

He was speaking after a plenary sitting of the parliament in Strasbourg voted in favour of his hard-hitting report which throws a spotlight on human-rights abuses, sexual violence and the humanitarian crisis blighting the Sahel region, which encompasses Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

It called for a coherent strategy to tackle the region’s many desperate problems including radicalisation, female genital mutilation, child labour and child conscription, as well as arms, drugs and people-trafficking.

In particular it focuses on the grave disaster witnessed over the past 18 months in Mali, which had previously seen political stability and relative peace for a number of years. While the worst of the crisis is believed to be over there, Dr Tannock points out that the suffering has far from ended with several hundreds of thousands of refugees still displaced and waiting to return home.

He believes a coherent strategy across the Sahel must combine an awareness of human rights with the imperative of boosting security, tackling radicalisation, and clamping down on the trafficking of people, arms and drugs – particularly with regard to the so-called trafficking superhighway bisecting the region east-west and south-north.

Additionally, it must involve improving governance and the accountability and legitimacy of state and regional institutions. The report advocates the decentralisation of power and boosting the role of civil society.

The Tannock report is also the first European Parliament report to focus on the situation of human rights in Western Sahara. It has been acknowledged across the political spectrum for its fair treatment of an extremely sensitive and disputed issue.

Dr Tannock, Conservative MEP for London, said:

“We have addressed the situation of women, children and minorities, including child labour, forced marriage and even slavery. The over-riding message is for the EU to work with local actors to focus on security, stability and human rights in synthesis

“The Sahel which historically was an African region little known to many decision makers in the EU has risen to the top of the political agenda after the takeover by Al Qaeda linked groups which precipitated a military intervention last year to reinstate the legitimate central government and now will require EU soft power to nation build in a region which has little in the way of natural resources and has been prone to conflict, lack of democracy and poor human rights and weak governance”

“Finally, if 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.”

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