Various challenges hinder Morocco’s role in the Sahel

Morocco will be participating in the Sahel meetings amidst exceptional circumstances in the region, with the wide proliferation of weapons – which is one of the most important remnants of the Libyan war that overthrew Moamer Kadhafi -, and the accelerating pace of terrorist groups that intensified their activities recently to take advantage of the situation.
As a pivotal state in North Africa, Morocco can contribute to enriching the already initiated discussions between the Sahel countries on many levels, namely between defence ministers. These discussions have extended to include a number of major countries concerned by the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration, such as the United States and the countries of the European Union.
Despite its limited role in the Sahel, at least geographically, Morocco can still contribute to the discussions aimed at finding solutions to counter the remaining terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Given its fight against violent extremist groups in recent years, Morocco can share its experience in terms of security, political solutions, and how it dealt with other issues such as drug smuggling, border security and illegal immigration among others.
However, the main problem of the Sahel is the fight against terrorist groups which have become stronger with the proliferation of weapons, and have increased their activities through recurrent kidnappings. Extremist groups are currently holding 9 hostages, including 5 French nationals.
A number of observers believe that this situation will probably make it difficult for Morocco to contribute effectively to the process due to objective reasons.
The first reason is that Morocco has no direct borders with the coastal strip of the Sahara, thus making interventions challenging. The second reason is the current political unrest in the Maghreb, in light of the current changes in the Arab World. These countries, including Morocco, are still seeking internal political stability, which may enable them to better coordinate with one another in the future. This also applies to neighbouring countries, namely Algeria and Mauritania, as well as Niger, Mali and Chad.
In addition to achieving internal stability, Morocco will have to deal with the consequences of its bilateral disputes, as it has not yet solved its conflict with the Polisario Front. In fact, the latter is calling for independence, while Morocco still insists on the annexation of the Western Sahara through its autonomy proposal.
In light of these circumstances, Morocco’s contribution to the Sahel meetings will be confined to discussing visions and ideas, as an effective contribution depends on the Kingdom’s ability to deal with its internal situation and overcome its conflicts with neighbouring countries.