CEN-SAD – Community of Sahel and Saharan States

On February 5, 1998, six African States agreed in Tripoli, Libya, to create the first ever Sahel and Sahara States Community (COMESSA)(1). In 2001, CEN-SAD (which stands for the first four letters in Arabic of the words Sahel and Sahara (2)) was adopted as the official name of the grouping. The Tripoli Treaty creating this new body designed to facilitate economic, social and cultural links between the members states as well as between them and the other Arab and African states, also enshrines the principle of non-agression and non-interference in the internal affairs of the member states and includes a charter on co-operation for peace, security and stability in their area.

Funding members were Libya, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Nigeria. Since the beginning of the venture these countries expressed the wish to see other Arab and Saharan states joining them. By 2002, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Somalia et Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Senegal and Central African Republic, Togo and Benin (the last two ones became members in July 2002). Among this group, there are some of the poorest African countries, many of them without direct access to the sea.

The objective of the Community is to strengthen the development and stability of the member states, as well for peace and security within member states.

The supreme organ is the Conference of Heads of State of the member countries which sets the work plan of the community at a meeting held annually. The Conference met in Tripoli in 1998, in Chad 2000, in Khartoum in 2001 and in Tripoli in 2001. Its Secretary General and Headquarters are in Tripoli.

While it has been a Libyan ambition since the early ‘70s to create regional unions with its neighbours, it was the first time that this country was the pivot of such a venture. Libya was also protagonist in boosting the Organisation of African Unity, which became the African Union in May 2001, and included an African Economic Community. In 1998, both organisations established a joint commission to support mediation in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia (both countries signed the peace agreement in December 2000).
(1) Not confuse with COMESA: Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
(2) Another possible spelling is SEN-SAD.