January 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2011
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UNOWA (West Africa)

Expected Council Action
In January the Council is expected to consider a report from the Secretary-General on the activities of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), submitted in December 2011. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNOWA, Said Djinnit, will likely brief the Council.

It is likely that the Council will discuss the findings of the UN inter-agency assessment mission that was jointly sent by the UN and AU to the Sahel region from 7 to 23 December 2011 to assess the impact of the Libya crisis on the contiguous countries of Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad.

The Council will likely issue a presidential statement highlighting these findings. The statement may also address the growing incidence of terrorist attacks in Nigeria, as well as the more positive electoral outcomes in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.

UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December 2013.

Key Recent Developments
Djinnit last briefed the Council on developments affecting peace and security in the West African region in July. His report was largely upbeat, noting the end of the protracted post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the successful presidential elections and political transition in Niger and progress in Guinea toward economic and institutional reforms as well as consensus-building measures ahead of legislative elections currently scheduled for 2012.

On the flip side, however, Djinnit noted the growing problems of drug trafficking and organised crime, which continue to pose major challenges for several countries in the region. The Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA, issued on 20 June 2011, reported increased trafficking of heroin through West Africa in early 2011, production of methamphetamine in West Africa for export to Asia and the increased corrupting influence of money-laundering, which was weakening “the already fragile” state institutions in the region.

The report also suggested that large caches of combat weapons might have been transferred from Libya and had fallen into the hands of terrorists in the Sahel, which could have a destabilising effect on the region. In this regard, on 31 October 2011, the Council adopted resolution 2017, drawing attention to “the risk of destabilisation posed by the dissemination in the Sahel region of illicit small arms and light weapons.” The resolution also underlined a suggestion in the Secretary-General’s 20 June report that countries in the Sahel and UNOWA strengthen their cooperation to address emerging security and humanitarian issues.

One of the more dramatic of such challenges has been the increased incidence of terrorism in Nigeria: on 26 August 2011, a car bomb destroyed the UN building in Abuja, killing 18 people, and on 4 November 2011, bomb attacks in the north of the country killed more than 100 people. In both instances, Boko Haram, an inchoate Islamist group, claimed responsibility. Thousands of people also fled Maiduguri, in Borno state, as attacks by Boko Haram and clashes with the army’s Joint Task Force left dozens of people dead in July and August.

On other fronts, drug trafficking and organised crime remain problems, especially in countries such as Guinea-Bissau. Piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have become more frequent since the last briefing, as a result of which Lloyd’s Market Association, a leading group of maritime insurers, placed the coastal waters off Benin and part of Nigeria in the same high-risk category as Somalia last August. In resolution 2018 of 31 October 2011, the Council called for “the development of a comprehensive strategy” to counter the problem.

A representative from UNOWA is part of the assessment mission deployed in November 2011 by the Secretary-General to map the scope of the piracy threat in the region and make recommendations for possible UN action.  Other representatives were drawn from the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the International Maritime Organization, the UN Development Programme, the UN Regional Office in Central Africa and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Elections in Liberia were ultimately successful but not problem-free, and thousands of West African migrant workers in Libya returned to the region, increasing economic and social problems. The threat of electoral violence, as happened in Liberia in November 2011, remains salient. This may be particularly true of Guinea, where legislative elections, slated for the end of December 2011, were postponed to 2012 because of lack of preparation. In July 2011, two armed attacks on newly elected President Alpha Condé claimed three lives. The authorities arrested General Nouhou Thiam—who was chief of staff to the former president, General Sékouba Konaté—and several other people after the attack.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 4 December 2011 in Bamako (Mali) the Regional Conference on Impunity, Justice and Human Rights in West Africa adopted a Declaration and a Regional Roadmap to support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States towards justice, peace and stability. The Declaration contains recommendations to strengthen the rule of law through the promotion of human rights and by addressing impunity, corruption, organised crime, illicit trafficking and piracy. The Declaration also calls for the promotion of transitional justice mechanisms such as truth and reconciliation commissions. It also encourages governments and stakeholders to develop national roadmaps for their respective countries to facilitate effective implementation of the recommendations.

Key Issues
The key issue for Council members is to assess the overall value being added to peace consolidation in the region through UNOWA’s role in monitoring emerging challenges and security trends, as well as supporting the work of other UN missions in the region. Particularly urgent is the issue of arms proliferation in the Sahel region following the conflict in Libya.

Also, the forthcoming legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau and Guinea and the presidential and legislative elections in Sierra Leone in 2012 are important issues for the Council to be focused on.

An increasingly important issue is UNOWA’s role in monitoring and supporting the efforts of regional governments in light of the wider issue of Gulf of Guinea piracy.

Options for the Council include:

  • simply receiving the briefing and considering the Secretary-General’s report;
  •  adopting a presidential statement highlighting key issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report, in particular the issue of Libyan arms in the countries of the Sahel, and reiterating the Council’s support for the work of UNOWA;
  •  holding an interactive dialogue involving the countries from the region, the representatives of the Gulf of Guinea piracy assessment mission and the chairs of the relevant Peacebuilding Commission country-specific configurations on the key underlying issues, along with relevant thematic issues, such as piracy and drug trafficking; or
  • addressing issues of UN integration and “delivering as one” as some of the current missions in the region (the UN Integrated Mission in Sierra Leone, for example) wind down.

Council Dynamics
Nigeria, which led on this issue until 31 December 2011, will need to be replaced by another Council member. Council members are generally supportive of the work of UNOWA, especially its active role in monitoring and addressing issues that threaten the region’s peace and security but may not be on the Council’s agenda. It seems also that UNOWA’s role as a focal point in a region that hosts several large missions is largely appreciated by Council members. Djinnit also appears to be well-respected. UNOWA is not a contentious issue on the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/2018 (31 October 2011) was a resolution on the threats of piracy and armed robbery on the seas of the Gulf of Guinea.

Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2009/32 (8 December 2009) was on threats posed by drug trafficking.
  • S/PRST/2009/20 (10 July 2009) was on the situation in West Africa.
  • S/PRST/2009/11 (5 May 2009) expressed concern about the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.


  • S/2010/661 (20 December 2010) extended the mandate of UNOWA for a further three years, from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.

  • S/2010/660 (14 December 2010) contained the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA.  

Latest Secretary General’s Report
  • S/2011/388 (20 June 2011) covers the period from 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2011.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Said Djinnit (Algeria)

Size and Composition

Staff Strength (as of 30 April 2010): 13 international civilians; ten local civilians; four military advisers


29 November 2001 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2013.

Useful Additional Source
Emerging Security Threats in West Africa, Security Council Report, Research Report No. 1, May 2011

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