Senegalese president Macky Sall met with his Mauritian counterpart Mohamed Ghazouani in Nouakchott on Monday, February 17, to discuss various economic and security issues, an indication of warming diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Artisanal fishing has been a consistent point of contention between the two countries, as fishermen from the two nations sometimes cross into foreign territorial waters along the coast between Senegal’s Saint Louis and Mauritania’s Nouadhibou. In an effort to address industrial overfishing, Mauritania instituted new fishing licenses and restricted the number of licenses granted. Senegalese fishermen violating these new rules have sparked tensions in and around Saint Louis, leading to reprisals against Mauritanian nationals within Senegal’s territory.
Tensions surrounding the treatment of foreign nationals is not solely limited to the coastline. Senegal has issued stern warnings against Mauritania due to mistreatment of Senegalese nationals crossing the border to work, with strong flare-ups occurring between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers. A slew of recent murders of Mauritanian nationals along the Senegal River has also inflamed tensions. Sall and Ghazouani recognize the need to better manage migratory flows between their shared borders while also cracking down on illicit trade.
Though fishing and transnational workers may be a bone of contention between the two nations, the exploitation of the Greater Tortue/Ahmeyim offshore natural-gas field, shared between Senegal and Mauritania, offers an opportunity for reconciliation. In conjunction with British Petroleum and Kosmos Energy, the two countries signed a distribution agreement in 2018, with a follow-up accord regarding future deliveries signed on February 11 in Dakar.
Terrorism was also high on the agenda of the meeting, mostly focusing on efforts by the G5 Sahel, of which Mauritania is a member. Mauritania will host a meeting of the other G5 Sahel members—Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad—in the capital Nouakchott on February 25. It is likely that President Sall will be asked once again if Senegal wishes to join the G5, an increasingly likely scenario as the terrorist threat moves closer to Senegal’s border.