8585th Security Council Meeting: Peace Consolidation in West Africa

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24-Jul-2019 01:19:23
Tackling potential sources of conflict in West Africa critical ahead of high-stakes elections, Special Representative tells Security Council at 8585th meeting.

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Addressing potential sources of conflict is critical ahead of the high-stakes presidential elections scheduled for 2020 in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo, the top United Nations official for West Africa and the Sahel told the Security Council today.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report, the Special Representative and Head of United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) cautioned that democratic progress in the region has been delayed and complicated, and sometimes, almost negated by a rapid expansion of violent extremism.

Security conditions remains volatile across the Sahel, he said, where violence and insecurity have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis leaving 5.1 million Burkinabe, Nigerians and Malians in need. In Burkina Faso alone, 226 security incidents led to fresh displacement, as well as the closure of 2,024 schools and 37 health centres. In the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram splinter groups remain active. Chad’s military suffered its deadliest assault to date when Boko Haram fighters killed 23 soldiers.

Despite the violence, presidential elections were organized in Nigeria, Senegal and Mauritania, he said. “Ahead of these fiercely contested elections, I met with all presidential candidates and conveyed to them, alongside regional and international partners, the need to uphold the high electoral standards in the region.”

The past six months also saw the opening of political dialogues between Governments and opposition leaders in Burkina Faso and Benin, the start of a political dialogue on vigilante groups in Ghana, and an agreement to begin a dialogue on strengthening the economy in Liberia. Gains were also made in the Gambia and Togo regarding justice and reconciliation, and gender parity, respectively.

However, pre- and post-electoral periods continue to be characterized by tensions and he called for inclusive approaches to address governance deficits, extreme poverty and lack of development that feed armed violence and extremism.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members spotlighted the important role played by Governments and regional institutions in devising solutions. The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, speaking also for Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, said terrorist groups striving to elevate the presence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) are exploiting intercommunal tensions, conflicts between herders and farmers, and disputes over water and arable land. As these pressures risk spilling into Central Africa, he welcomed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) special summit in September focused on the fight against terrorism.

China’s delegate also emphasized that the role of regional organizations and institutions should be fully leveraged. International and regional attention should work to resolve deep-rooted problems, identifying the causes of extremism, and helping the region implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It really is a race against the clock to stabilize the Sahel,” France’s representative added. Echoing the concerns of several delegates, he said climate change has flamed tensions over resources. He emphasized the need to implement the Mali peace agreement and support the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The representative of the Dominican Republic meanwhile expressed alarm that only one quarter of the $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for the Sahel has been funded.

Pointing to an auspicious sign, the representative of the United States welcomed reports of economic growth, noting that while projections are uneven, economic performance along with good governance can be a bellwether for the future.

Also speaking today were representatives of Belgium, Poland, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Germany, Indonesia, United Kingdom and Peru.

The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 4:27 p.m.

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