July 2012 Monthly Forecast


UNOWA (West Africa)

Expected Council Action
In July the Council expects to consider the semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), including an update on the Gulf of Guinea piracy problem. Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOWA, will brief.

No Council action is envisaged at press time.

UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December 2013.

Key Recent Developments
Several West African issues have been on Council members’ minds in recent weeks, both prior and following their trip to the region from 19-23 May. 

Since 22 March, when soldiers in Mali abandoned their faltering campaigns against Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and seized power, Mali has been the focus of intense diplomatic activity involving ECOWAS, the AU and the UN. On 11 May, Djinnit briefed Council members on the situation in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, where soldiers had also seized power on 12 April, aborting an electoral process. Djinnit expressed concern at the resurgence of coups in the region and the impact this would have on international peace and security. (Djinnit previously briefed the Council on 16 January. At the time, he mentioned the growing insecurity in the Sahel region of West Africa, in particular Mali, Mauritania and Niger, due to the influx of arms from Libya.)

On 6 April, a framework agreement brokered by ECOWAS resulted in the military junta in Mali agreeing to give up power in return for an amnesty and the lifting of sanctions imposed by the West African regional body. The junta also agreed to a timetable for a return to constitutional rule and elections. The Speaker of Parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, was made the new interim President, ruling with a transitional government (which includes the junta) until elections within a year. Meanwhile, the Tuareg rebels captured the three northern regions of Mali (Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu) and, reports say, have since imposed a regime of terror in the areas. The humanitarian and human rights situation has worsened in those areas, and it is reported that a third of the people there have fled.

During their trip, on 21 May, Council members held a high-level meeting with ECOWAS in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The participants included ECOWAS Commission Chair Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, as well the Foreign Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire (current chair of ECOWAS), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. Benin also attended as the current chair of the AU. On 15 June in New York an informal interactive meeting on Mali, requested by Togo, was held between Council members and representatives of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and ECOWAS. The Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé, who is leading ECOWAS’ mediation efforts on Mali, provided an update on his efforts and requested a mandate from the Council for the planned ECOWAS military deployment in Mali. The Council agreed on dispatching a joint UN-AU-ECOWAS team that would also have representatives from the EU, Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger, to assess the feasibility of deploying an intervention force in Mali. 

On 18 June, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10676) declaring its readiness to consider backing a military intervention in Mali as proposed by ECOWAS “once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment and other possible measures.”  

Earlier, on 13 June, the Secretary-General transmitted a letter (S/2012/439) dated 1 June from President Boni Yayi of Benin, who writing in his capacity as chairperson of the AU, raised the issue of the “very worrying” developments relating to Mali and the wider Sahel. The collapse of the army in Mali, the letter said, and “the removal of all state structures [have] created the conditions for Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), along with various organised crime networks, to control the entire North (over 800,000 square km).” The rebel groups, National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Eddine, are merely fronts for AQIM, the letter asserted, with the intention to make the Sahel a sanctuary and training base “for all Salafist and Islamist groups of the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa and the global jihadist movement.” In addition, the letter said, there is the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the region and “a phenomenon that is no less dangerous, transnational organised crime, in particular drugs and narcotics.” The letter notes that an average of 100 tons of cocaine, or 40 percent of Europe’s consumption, transit each year through the Sahel.   

The letter requested the adoption of a Security Council resolution mandating an “inter-African” force that would rapidly intervene in Mali “for the purpose of ridding this part of Africa of the peril of terrorism”. The resolution should also call for UN support for the force with “logistics, aircraft and other materiel” that would allow it to restore governance and security in Mali. In the absence of this, the country would become “a West African Afghanistan”. (On 12 June, the AU PSC, meeting in New York, issued a communiqué calling on the Security Council “as a matter of urgency” to “endorse the envisaged deployment of an ECOWAS force [in Mali] and to lend its full support to the efforts being exerted to this end.”)  

On piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the Council on 21 February issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/2) expressing concern about “the serious threats to international peace and stability in different regions of the world, in particular in West Africa and the Sahel Region, posed by transnational organised crime, including illicit weapons and drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as terrorism and its increasing links, in some cases, with transnational organised crime and drug trafficking.” The statement followed a high-level debate on the impact of transnational organised crime on peace and security in West Africa and the wider Sahel region. The Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) (S/2012/421) reports that the UN initiated a meeting in Libreville, Gabon, from 29-31 May on the issue. At the meeting, a steering committee was set up to “lead preparations for a summit of heads of state and government on maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.” The committee’s “first priority will be to convene a meeting of experts from the Gulf of Guinea countries and interested partners to develop the first draft of the regional strategy.”

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is determining the appropriateness and feasibility of an inter-African troop deployment and what level of support the Council may give to the force.  

A related issue is to fashion a policy to coordinate international response to the apparent resurgence of coups in West Africa and the growing threat of terrorism in the region.  

Options for the Council include:

Council Dynamics
There is strong interest in the work of UNOWA among all Council members, in particular the US, the UK and France, which have considerable involvement in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, respectively. Togo, which leads on UNOWA in the Council, has a strong interest in getting a Council resolution on African troop deployment in Mali as well as a concerted effort to deal with piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolution

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

Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2012/2 (21 February 2012) was on transnational crime in West Africa, including piracy.
  • 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/2012/439 (13 June 2012) was from President Boni Yaya of Benin, Chairperson of AU, on the situation in Mali.
  • S/2010/661 (20 December 2010) extended the mandate of UNOWA for a further three years, from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2013.
Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Press Statement

  • SC/10676 (18 June 2012) was on Council’s readiness to back military in Mali once additional information provided by ECOWAS.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Said Djinnit (Algeria)

Size and Composition of Mission

Staff Strength (as of 31 May 2010): 19 international civilians; 17 local civilians; three military advisers

UNOWA: Duration

Mandate expires on 31 December 2013.