UN still concerned about security situation in W. Africa, Sahel

Despite continuous progress in West Africa and the Sahel, the security situation in the region remains “a matter of grave concern,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General said Thursday.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the last year activities of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to the UN Security Council, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, also head of the office, urged the international community to scale up support to the fight against terrorist groups in the various parts of region. In Mali, terrorists launched a complex attack on the positions of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in Kidal resulting in the death of one peacekeeper, he said Three more Malian soldiers have recently lost their lives through a landmine in Mopti region. Another Malian soldier was killed by terrorists in Niono. Two separate attacks on security posts were also registered in Burkina Faso near the Malian border.

The attacks in Mali as well as within the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso tri-border area are mainly attributed to Al-Qaida affiliated groups and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Ibn Chambas pointed out.

In Niger, the increasing number of security incidents has compelled the government to dedicate 17 per cent of public expenditure in 2018 to the security sector, compared to 15 per cent in 2017; this has triggered demonstrations in Niger’s capital given the expected detrimental effects on the delivery of social services.

Following a notable decline in Boko Haram attacks in the first half of the year, there has been an uptick in the number of incidents since last September, with a peak of 143 civilian casualties alone in November 2017.

The use of children as suicide bombers by Boko Haram increased five-fold compared to 2016 to reach 135 cases in 2017. While 700 people abducted by Boko Haram have recently escaped captivity, the group continues to kidnap innocent persons, as shown by the recent disappearance of 31 loggers in Gamboru near the Cameroon border. Overall, more than two million displaced persons are still desperately waiting for an end to this crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, the UN senior official went on.

The comprehensive response of the region to address the Boko Haram threat must be supported by the international community. I commend the successful efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force, I also welcome the conference on the resuscitation of the Lake Chad to be hosted by Nigeria next month.

In the Sahel, the Group of Five has made significant progress in the operationalisation of their Joint Force, including by establishing its military command structure and a Force headquarters in Sevar?(copyright), and conducting its first military operation with French troops in late October 2017 –. The exponential spread of intercommunal and farmer-herder conflicts that have claimed hundreds of lives in the recent past must also be cause for worry. It is a ticking time-bomb, which unattended, could escalate beyond the community level, Ibn Chambas warned.

The trajectory of successful democratic elections in West Africa continues. Notably, on 10 October and 26 December, the people of Liberia came out in large numbers to peacefully elect a new President.

Further attention now needs to be paid to forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone and Guinea. In Togo, opposition parties continue with their street protests, he urged. As we pay tribute to outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, who is leaving office following 12 years of leadership and service to her country and to the wider region –, we must increase our efforts to promote the participation of women in decision-making and leadership, and ensure that the regions’ youth are solidly placed at the center of development policies, he added

Source: Kuwait News Agency