8670th Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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20-Nov-2019 01:52:49
Amid increased terrorist activity in Sahel region, speakers tell Security Council greater commitment needed for joint force at 8670th meeting.

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Facing a significant spike in armed group attacks, countries of Africa’s Sahel region need redoubled support to prevent a flood of terrorists from spreading across the wider continent — and even beyond — the Security Council heard today, as it was briefed by a range of stakeholders.

“Terrorism is a shared problem — a problem for all,” said Bintou Keita, United Nations Assistant Secretary‑General for Africa, as she outlined the recent activities of, and challenges facing, the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force tasked with combating terrorism and extremism across the region. Describing a deteriorating situation and a threefold increase in security incidents in the last year, she recalled that 40 civilians and soldiers were recently killed in north‑east Burkina Faso and nearly 100 joint force troops lost their lives in a span of just 10 days. However, she also reported several successful counter‑terrorist operations and welcomed new expressions of solidarity from both the wider subregion and abroad.

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Alpha Barry, said the enemy has become more active principally in Mali, Niger, Chad and his own country. The joint force, still in a phase of building strength, continues to grapple with recurrent functional difficulties. Meanwhile, armed terrorist groups have mastered the fabrication and use of improvised explosive devices, keeping State leaders out of official buildings and thereby preventing the administration and delivery of services. Outlining plans to further harmonize efforts between the various forces present on the ground — including the joint force, national forces and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) — he warned that “there cannot be more promises” without more support from international partners.

Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the Permanent Observer for the African Union, echoed concerns over the deteriorating situation, noting that dozens of people have been killed in Mali during a sharp uptick in terrorist attacks. Niger continues to face insurgents from Boko Haram in its southern region, while Burkina Faso is witnessing “a fury” of terrorist activity, including targeting civilians, churches and mosques. Condemning such heinous acts, she agreed with other briefers that the joint force requires adequate resources to take up an offensive position.

Briefing via video‑teleconference from Brussels was Koen Vervaeke, of the European External Action Service, who outlined the European Union’s assistance to the Sahel — including support for political dialogue, security, development and humanitarian aid. Commending the operationalization of the joint force, he said a strategic framework is being developed to help the Union provide more effective support on the basis of a compliance framework. Cooperation with the Security Council is also paramount, he said.

Also addressing the Council via video‑teleconference, this time from Bamako, was Assitan Diallo, President of the Association des Femmes Africaines pour la Recherche et le Développement. Noting that Mali has suffered from a bloody conflict since 2012, she recounted instances of gang rapes, early and forced marriages and the abduction of women and girls for the purpose of sexual slavery. To date, no perpetrators of such sexual violence crimes have been held accountable. Stressing that there can be no peace or development in the country without gender equality, she also drew attention to the continued underrepresentation of women in the joint force and cited widespread frustration over MINUSMA’s inability to effectively protect civilians.

Following those briefings, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire, also speaking on behalf of Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, said the Sahel countries serve as a defence which, if breached, will unleash a flood of terrorists across the continent and beyond. He called for international support to bridge the joint force’s funding shortfalls, adding that financing should dovetail with regional efforts and match the magnitude of the threat. In that regard, he commended a recent decision by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to mobilize $1 billion to tackle terrorism, while calling for more predictable, lasting financing from the broader international community.

The representative of France, noting the rising terrorist toll in the Sahel, said the joint force is the best tool to fight the threat. Its results have been striking, with the destruction of logistics capacity and weapons and an increasing capacity to protect civilians. He agreed with the briefers that support for the force requires the commitment of both local Governments and international partners. He also spotlighted a newly developed Franco‑German security partnership, which is harmonizing its efforts with ECOWAS and other forces across the region.

The delegate of Peru was among those speakers who underlined the importance of ensuring that the joint force receives adequate and predictable financing and remains compliant with international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, he called for measures to promote development and grapple with the root causes of extremism and conflict in the Sahel. Indeed, more work is needed to empower women and young people, with a range of coherent efforts all working towards the shared goal of sustaining peace in the region.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Indonesia, Germany, Dominican Republic, China, Poland, Belgium, Kuwait, United States and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 3:35 p.m. and ended at 5:27 p.m.
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