8685th Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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16-Dec-2019 01:54:13
Special Representative stresses urgent need to address causes of conflict between farmers and herders, as Security Council considers West Africa at 8685th meeting.

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Briefers, Delegates Blame Extremism, Climate Change, Collapse of Libyan State for Rising Instability in Sahel

The root causes of conflict between farmers and herders and other drivers of intercommunal and extremist violence must be urgently addressed in a holistic manner to stop rising instability in West Africa, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for that region told the Security Council today.

“Terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence can easily intertwine,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). Briefing by video teleconference from Dakar, Senegal, he emphasized that while the drivers of violence must be addressed in a holistic manner, the individual characteristics of extremism and intercommunal violence must not be ignored.

He noted that, amid poor management of natural resources, inequalities, marginalization, corruption and gaps in security and justice, there has been a sharp upsurge in intercommunal violence recently, with relentless attacks by extremist groups against both civilians and security forces, adding that since 70 per cent of West Africa’s population rely on agriculture or husbandry, reconciling the two groups is absolutely necessary.

UNOWAS has been working with Governments facing great risks, he continued, adding that all United Nations actors have increased cross‑pillar coherence, with security, human rights and development activities supporting Governments. Country teams have also renewed their focus on governance, he noted, while emphasizing that regional organizations are in the best situation to provide a framework for preventing and resolving local conflicts and eliciting critical support from civil society, particularly young people. In that regard, he called for support from the Security Council and the rest of the international community for the implementation of the Bamako Declaration on conflict prevention in West Africa and while affirming the undeterred solidarity of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in facing all challenges. “Security Council support cannot falter at this juncture,” he stressed.

Also briefing members was Smaїl Chergui, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, who briefed via video teleconference from Addis Ababa. Welcoming the Council’s discussion of the link between intercommunal violence and terrorism in West Africa for the first time, he said it is a bitter reality that concerns everyone and which should be addressed responsibility and collectively. The situation is alarming, he emphasized, citing the incidents occurring in Niger and Mali recently and almost daily in Burkina Faso. Climate change is exacerbating the situation, he added.

Reviewing the African Union’s support for regional efforts to address the situation, including the Bamako Declaration, he warned, however, that the reality is that despite all efforts, “we are not reversing this trend” and the situation is getting worse. “We need a reset”, including a rethink of the manner in which military support is provided in the region, and a holistic approach to strengthening the State presence in peripheral areas, he said. For those purposes, the African Union and the United Nations should create a specific joint implementation mechanism, he recommended.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed alarm over the rise of intercommunal and extremist violence in the region, with most extending condolences, condemning the 10 December attack that killed 71 Nigerian soldiers near the border with Mali. Most speakers endorsed the need for a holistic approach to helping the States of West Africa and the Sahel build capacity under the regional framework in order to meet complex threats.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, described the past year as one of the darkest in Africa’s history due to the rise in both intercommunal violence and extremist attacks. Calling for much greater international solidarity in support of the Bamako Declaration and other regional initiatives, he also paid tribute to the soldiers of many nations who have lost their lives fighting armed groups, and expressed hope that “their blood will fertilize the peace that all wish to see”.

The representative of the United States called upon countries with the ability to do so to step up their assistance, affirming the need for a multidimensional approach. She also called for greater commitment and coordination between States of the region, particularly in relation to implementation of the peace agreement in Mali, humanitarian access and other areas.

A concept note prepared by the United States presidency, which co‑organized the meeting with Côte d’Ivoire, notes that West Africa’s population of more than 350 million is divided into numerous ethnicities, and that a rapidly growing population as well as desertification have increased competition for land. Terrorist groups often exploit the resulting intercommunal tensions and the absence of an effective State presence, it states, noting that given the lack of State security, terrorist threats and cross‑fire from counter‑terrorism operations, communities often arm and mobilize for protection, further increasing tensions.

The Russian Federation’s representative said his delegation shares the concern of others that Al‑Qaida, Boko Haram and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) are strengthening their foothold in Africa, while emphasizing that conflict between farmers and nomadic herders is not the cause, but rather the consequence. A balanced approach to the problem must address external intervention, in particular the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) action in Libya, he said, emphasizing that until that State’s collapse is reversed, it will be impossible to stabilize West Africa and the Sahel.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Poland, Peru, United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, France, Indonesia, Dominican Republic and Belgium.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:59 a.m.

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2514916