UNOWAS (West Africa and the Sahel)
On 10 August, the Council adopted a presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel. The statement, which covers a range of issues facing the region, welcomed collective efforts, under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General, to recalibrate the UN’s Sahel strategy to expedite its impact and encouraged greater coherence of the UN system and partners through implementation of the UN Support Plan for the Sahel. The presidential statement marked the first time that the Council addresses the herder-farmer conflicts in the region. It expressed concern for increased tensions between pastoralists and farmers, which the statement describes as being driven by competition for natural resources, rapid population growth, weak governance, pressures related to climate and ecological factors, and the circulation of small arms and light weapons. Country situations that are touched on in the statement include Togo, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia, along with regional security initiatives such as the G5 Sahel joint force and the Multinational Joint Task Force to combat Boko Haram.
On 17 July, Special Representative and head of UNOWAS Mohammed Ibn Chambas briefed the Council on developments in the region and the activities of the UN regional office, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s latest report. Chambas covered how the spillover of the Malian crisis is increasingly affecting Burkina Faso and Niger. He also talked about the continued threat posed by terrorist groups in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. He flagged violence between farmers and herders as increasingly representing a “major security threat in the region”, while noting that UNOWAS was monitoring the situation in countries with forthcoming elections, such as Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as the ongoing political crisis in Togo. Following closed consultations, members issued press elements, which included expressing concern over the increase in conflicts between farmers and herders. At the end of July, members had just begun negotiations on a follow-up presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, which Côte d’Ivoire and Sweden had prepared.
On 23 May, the Council held a briefing on the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), or FC-G5S. It was briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita, who reiterated the importance of using assessed contributions to support the force as recommended by the Secretary-General in his 8 May report on the joint force. Permanent Secretary of the G5-Sahel Maman Sidikou, Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN Fatima Kyari Mohammed, and Ambassador of the EU to the UN João Pedro Vale de Almeida also briefed. Later that day, Council members issued a press statement welcoming progress implementing resolution 2391 and the continued determination of G5 States to address the impact of terrorism and transnational crime in the Sahel region. The press statement encouraged G5 States to achieve the full operational capacity of the force as soon as possible and insisted on the critical need for generating support through the swift disbursement by donors of all pledges.
On 11 January, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative and head of UNOWAS, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the region. Several Council members made public statements before continuing discussions in consultations. On 30 January, the Council adopted a presidential statement on the West Africa and Sahel region and activities of UNOWAS. The statement, inter alia, looked forward to ongoing activities undertaken by UNOWAS in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation and good offices, welcomed the regional countries’ efforts to address terrorism and transnational crime, and reiterated that the Secretary-General include assessing implementation of resolution 2349 on the Lake Chad Basin in his regular UNOWAS reporting, with specific attention in his next report on the region in July.
On 8 December, the Council adopted adopted resolution 2391 on support that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) should provide to the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Joint Force. The resolution included requesting the Secretary-General, through UNOWAS, to provide technical assistance, within its existing mandate and resources, to the Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel in order for the Permanent Secretariat to support cooperation among G5 Sahel States in the fields of security, governance and development.
On 13 July, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and head of UNOWAS, briefed the Council on recent developments in the region and the semi-annual UNOWAS report . After public statements by Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uruguay, further discussions followed in consultations. On 24 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement , initiated by Senegal, in follow-up to the briefing (S/PV.8009). The statement, inter alia, welcomed developments in The Gambia and Côte d’Ivoire, highlighting the role for UNOWAS to support, as necessary, Côte d’Ivoire following the recent withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping operation to the country. The statement highlighted the terrorism threat in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin and regional efforts through the Multinational Joint Task Force to combat Boko Haram, and the initiative of the Group of Five for the Sahel to establish a joint force. The presidential statement, among other elements, also encouraged further progress in implementing the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. In this regard, it emphasised the importance of the UN and partners enhancing their programmatic capacity and focus on cross-border challenges, as well as reiterating the importance of UNOWAS’s collaboration with the Peacebuilding Commission.
On 21 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2359 welcoming the deployment by the Group of Five—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—of a joint force throughout the territories of its contributing countries with a view to restoring peace and security in the Sahel.
On 12 January, the Council received briefings from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun and OCHA head Stephen O’Brien on the Lake Chad Basin crisis precipitated by the Boko Haram conflict. Fatima Yerima Askira of the Borno Women Development Initiative and Youth Programmes Coordinator at Search for Common Ground Nigeria also briefed via video teleconference from Maiduguri, Nigeria. A number of Council members expressed support for a proposed Council mission to the Lake Chad Basin region. On 13 January, the Council was briefed by the head of UNOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the region. The meeting was followed by consultations where issues discussed included the political crisis in The Gambia, the independent evaluation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) and Boko Haram. In subsequent elements to the press delivered by the Council president, Council members reiterated the full content of the Council’s 21 December 2016 presidential statement on The Gambia.
On 10 December, Council members issued a press statement that strongly condemned Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s rejection on 9 December of the results of The Gambia’s recent presidential election. Members received briefings in consultations on the situation in The Gambia from Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General Jeffry Feltman on 12 December, 16 December, and 19 December. Following the consultations on 12 December, members issued press elements which included expressing support for the upcoming 13 December ECOWAS presidential mission to The Gambia. Members also issued press elements following the 16 December consultations that encouraged the AU and ECOWAS to pursue their efforts to avoid any deterioration in the situation, reiterated support for Chambas and urged Jammeh to cooperate. On 21 December, the Council adopted a presidential statement that welcomed the decisions on the political situation in The Gambia from the 17 December ECOWAS summit, and reiterated its request for Jammeh to accept the results.
On 11 July, the head of UNOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, briefed (S/PV.7735) the Council on the Office’s most recent report (S/2016/566). The briefing focused on the increasing terrorism threat to the region, the Boko Haram conflict in the Lake Chad basin, electoral developments across the region and progress in the merger of the UN Office for West Africa and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel. The following day, Senegal circulated a draft press statement, reflecting the range of issues discussed during the meeting. Some Council members suggested Senegal upgrade the text to a presidential statement. The statement was finally adopted on 28 July after explicit reference to human rights in The Gambia was dropped (S/PRST/2016/11). On 27 July, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and OCHA head Stephen O’Brien briefed the Council, at the request of the UK, on the humanitarian, political and security situation in the Lake Chad basin as a result of the Boko Haram conflict.
On 13 May, the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/7) welcoming Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s initiative to convene a high-level Regional Security Summit to evaluate the regional response to Boko Haram (S/PV.7692). It stated that Boko Haram continues to undermine peace and security in West and Central Africa and expressed alarm at its linkages with ISIL. The statement further highlighted the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region created by the conflict. On 26 May, the Council held a briefing on challenges in the Sahel, which focused on the impact of climate change and desertification to peace and security in this region. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the head of UNOWAS briefed via video teleconference. Other briefers included Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertifcation; Jean-Paul Laborde, Executive Director of CTED; and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad.
Council members undertook a visiting mission to West Africa in early March to Mali, Guinea-Bissau and UNOWAS in Dakar (S/2016/215). Council members visited Mali from 4 to 6 March, urging acceleration of the implementation of the 20 June 2015 peace agreement. Council members arrived in Guinea-Bissau on 7 March, where they urged political leaders to resolve its prolonged political crisis through dialogue and based on the country’s laws and constitution. On 8 March, Council members visited UNOWAS and were briefed on the office’s conflict prevention efforts and its monitoring of elections across the subregion; the increasing threat of terrorism to West Africa; the Boko Haram conflict; and the merger of the UN Office for West Africa and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel. On 16 March, the Council held a briefing on the visiting mission.
On 2 February, Council members issued a press statement condemning the 30 January Boko Haram attacks.
On 14 January, Special Representative Mohammed Ibn Chambas briefed the Council on the latest UNOWA report. Following the briefing and consultations, Council members issued a press statement that stressed the importance of the upcoming elections in Niger, Benin, Cabo Verde, Ghana and the Gambia to be free, fair and peaceful. The press statement also highlighted issues such as the political tensions in Guinea-Bissau and efforts to combat Boko Haram. On 25 January, Council members discussed under “any other business”, the Secretary-General’s 14 January letter proposing the merger of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Sahel with UNOWA, which would rename the two offices the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).