Meet Mauritania's Mehari National Guards
Camels might be a big part of the culture of many families in Mauritania, but it is also a symbol of the State.
Within the armed forces, the Mehari National Guard unit uses camel-riding policemen to go meet the population, as is the case in the locality of Achemime.
These police officers dressed in traditional attire and riding camels might be the best way to go about Mauritania's Sahara desert.
The 300 men patrol through remote areas bordering Mali to contribute to the fight against terrorist cells active in the region.
But these soldiers, whilst being skilled in combat do not limit their activities to engaging the enemy. They also take on a support role.
"The nomadic group helps the population, not only do they teach them, they educate them, they spread awareness on health problems. Here we focus on everything that concerns the local development of the villages or nomadic camps," Lieutenant-Colonel Ahmed Abdallahi Ely, at the head of the unit, says.
Interior Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug says this unit plays a crucial role in securing the country's borders, by gathering intelligence with the help of locals.
"We have the nomadic grouping which works to secure the country's borders, and at the same time provides a local public service to the population. It also provides a framework, and it is also an important element of security in the country, which is there fore the collection of intelligence," Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug told Africanews reporter Joël Honoré Kouam.
Members of the Mehariste National Guard unit have helped provide running water, public transport, patient care, as well as most of the public service facilities to populations.
"The work of stabilisation done by the nomadic grouping has given satisfactory results. All the populations in this area are happy to have a tool that serves them, that is there to make them feel safe , which has played a very big role in creating patriotism and a sense of belonging to the nation," Lieutenant-Colonel Ahmed Abdallahi Ely explains.
Locals cheer as they pass through villages.
"The nomadic grouping of the National Guard does a lot for us. Before we had a water network, they were the ones supplying us with water. Since they have been here, we feel safe. They give free consultations and distribute free medicine to Achemime," says a resident.
The Mehari National Gard now has two command posts, one of them in Achemime. With support from the European Union, they plan to open additional facilities in the city, that could train up to 320 people. The unit should also receive 250 additional camels shortly, thanks to financing from the EU.