Last Shipment Of EU Camels Delivered to Mauritanian National Guard 

The Mauritanian National Guard have received their final shipment of camels from the EU, reported Jane’s on 14 April. The camels were handed over to the Nomadic Group of the National Guard at Achemim, on the border with Mali, according to France’s Management Institute for International Security. The institute had been contracted by the EU to procure camels and saddles as part of the Mauritania Security and Development Support Project (PADSM). 

This kind of project is quite unique in the EU – it follows a two-prong approach, linking increased security with increased development. “The basic idea is to improve the security and living conditions of the population in order to keep it on the ground, loyal to the state and willing to provide information about suspicious movements,” said Francois-Xavier Pons, the EU project’s head of mission.

The Nomadic Group patrols the Mauritanian hinterland – border regions where extremist groups find fertile ground for recruiting local populations. On camelback, they can more easily reach such remote regions, delivering essential supplies and supporting infrastructure projects. According to France 24, they can travel 70km a day, roaming between villages for four weeks at a time. 

The risk posed by Islamic extremists in the Sahel has been creeping up for decades. One of their main targets is rural populations. As agricultural projects fail due to lack of infrastructure, young people are left listless, ready to be scooped up into the arms of the extremists. The grip of the Mauritanian state has faltered in recent years, as groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel have grown in strength and numbers. The country is particularly vulnerable at its border with Mali, where the state has all but collapsed. 

The PADSM, in collaboration with the Mauritanian authorities, is attempting to counter this, by focussing outreach efforts on rural communities. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said efforts to engage with “young people who were lost” had stopped “waves of Mauritanians” leaving to join jihadist groups.

However, some in Mauritania questioned the generosity of the EU when the project was announced in 2017. The country is known for having a large camel population, but very few technological resources. “Why can’t they give us weapons or military equipment of value?” one person asked, according to the BBC. Shortly before the first shipment of camels, Morocco was given radar equipment as part of an EU-backed project to counter illegal immigration. 

Mauritania is one of Africa’s poorest countries. In Nbeikit Lehouache, a village deep in the desert, funds from PADSM will allow for the building of a mobile hospital. It will treat locals, as well as troops from the G5 Sahel taskforce. “Here, a box of paracetamol is welcomed with joy. Imagine a hospital capable of performing operations.” said Pons.