Amid growing fears of widespread insecurity in West Africa and the Sahel, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today of the need to reconfigure the region’s security coordination mechanism, including the possible deployment of an African Union standby team.
Over the past six months, the situation in the region has been marked by “diverging” developments, said Leonardo Santos Simaõ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in his biannual briefing to the 15-member body. While the region has achieved significant progress in consolidating democracy, he observed that security and governance remain fragile.
“Against the multiple challenges, UNOWAS will stay the course and deploy its capacities, using good offices, urging for humanitarian access, and promoting the observance of human rights and the rule of law,” he pledged.
Also briefing the Council was Lori-Anne Theroux-Benoni, Regional Director of the Office for West Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin of the Institute for Security Studies, who underscored challenges in the region, such as the rapid expansion of terrorism and a series of coups d’état. She also cited the withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the dissolution of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) and its joint force as conditions for creating a regional security vacuum.
“There is no short-term miracle solution,” she asserted, stressing the need to strengthen national and regional coordination and implement a preventive approach to avoid creating the conditions for a subsequent coup d’état. “The time has come to be pragmatic,” she declared, noting that the goal is “not to encourage long-standing military transitions” but “to return to constitutional order”.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates underscored the imperative for countries in political transition to adhere to their electoral timelines and ensure democratic consolidation, good governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights, gender equality, and sustainable development.
Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking also for Algeria, Guyana and Mozambique, pointed to growing disengagement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), expressing regret over “rising political tensions caused by the shift from democratic to unconstitutional changes of Government in some countries in the region.” There must be continuous engagement between the UN, African Union and ECOWAS to ensure support for enhancing governance and the rule of law in these countries, he emphasized.
Echoing such a view, many speakers called for the Council’s increased attention to the region, with Slovenia’s representative declaring: “This is not the time to turn a blind eye to the region, but a time to invest in prevention, peacebuilding and regional stabilization.”
To that end, Malta’s delegate expressed support for increased reporting on West Africa and the Sahel by the Secretary-General, supplemented by Council briefings, on the region’s multidimensional challenges. Her counterpart from the Russian Federation, however, objected to the establishment of additional reporting, saying the Secretary-General’s reports on UNOWAS sufficiently cover the region.
While several delegations, among them the Republic of Korea and Japan, called for a swift return to constitutional order in some countries, China’s representative cautioned that the imposition of governance models from the outside has proven of no value in addressing the root causes of armed unrest and has in some cases led to new chaos.
Switzerland’s representative stressed that mitigating the risk of a deepening regional crisis requires close collaboration with the African Union and subregional organizations. “Now is not the time to disengage,” she said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations (UN).