UNOWA (West Africa)
Expected Council Action
In January, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), will brief the Council, followed by consultations. Members will be considering the semi-annual UNOWA report.
No outcome is expected to result from the briefing. However, at press time Council members were considering a draft resolution on the Boko Haram terrorist threat affecting parts of the region.
UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Nigeria’s conflict with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has continued to worsen. Since July 2014, the group has seized territory across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, declaring a caliphate on 24 August in Gwoza. By December, Boko Haram had captured or contested many of the towns encircling Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state with a population of one million.
According to the Nigerian Social Violence Project, between July 2013 and June 2014 at least 7,000 people died due to the insurgency, almost doubling the estimated 3,120 civilians and soldiers killed during the same period in Afghanistan. Recent deadly incidents include two suicide bombers who targeted a market in Maiduguri on 25 November 2014, killing at least 45; the 28 November bombing of a mosque in Kano, killing 120 people; and a 1 December attack by two female suicide bombers in Maiduguri, killing dozens. Council members issued a press statement condemning the suicide bombing of a school in Yobe state on 10 November, which killed 48 people. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency has indicated that as many as 1.5 million people have been internally displaced by the conflict. In addition, 100,000 people have fled to Niger, 2,700 refugees have been received by Chad and at least 43,000 Nigerians have fled to Cameroon. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s military has been implicated in severe human rights abuses in battling the insurgency.
Following a summit in Niamey on 7 October 2014, Lake Chad Basin Commission members (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) and Benin announced plans to deploy a Multinational Joint Task Force on 1 November. They also called for a “UN and AU” resolution to provide a legal framework for cross-border operations against Boko Haram. The launching of the 2,800-strong force however, has been delayed. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) held a meeting on Boko Haram on 25 November. A communiqué issued afterwards called for the adoption of a Security Council resolution authorising the task force for an initial period of 12 months and for the Secretary-General to establish a trust fund to sustain the force’s operations. At press time, a draft resolution authorising the task force for 12 months had just been circulated to Council members.
Other developments in West Africa included the 31 October 2014 resignation of Burkina Faso’s long-standing president Blaise Compaoré following protests against his intention to amend the constitution to allow him to run for president in 2015. Amidst a power vacuum, the military took over. Negotiations between the military and opposition, mediated by a joint AU-ECOWAS-UN mission—in which Chambas was closely involved—led to a 16 November agreement for a civilian-led transition and for elections by November 2015. The next day, Michel Kafando, a former permanent representative to the UN who represented Burkina Faso on the Security Council in 2008-2009, was named interim president. On 18 November, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Yacouba Zida, who led the military government after Compaoré’s resignation, was appointed interim prime minister. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed Council members in consultations on Burkina Faso under “any other business” on 4 November. Council members issued press statements on the situation on 5 and 17 November.
The Council held an emergency meeting on 18 September 2014 due to its concern that the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was undermining stability in these countries. Resolution 2177 was adopted the same day and declared the Ebola outbreak a threat to international peace and security. The next day, the General Assembly adopted resolution 69/1, establishing the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), with headquarters in Accra, Ghana, and field offices in the three initially affected countries. Following an Ebola outbreak in Bamako in November, UNMEER established a Mali office.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 17 December 2014, there were 2,416 Ebola cases in Guinea with 1,525 deaths; 7,797 cases and 3,290 deaths in Liberia; and 8,356 cases and 2,085 deaths in Sierra Leone. Mali has had eight cases and six deaths. Senegal and Nigeria’s Ebola outbreaks were declared over by the WHO in mid-October. On 11 December, the Secretary-General appointed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as Special Representative and head of UNMEER, to replace Anthony Banbury in January 2015.
A key issue is the Boko Haram threat. A related issue is how the Council and the broader UN system can increase support of Nigeria as it deals with the conflict and find ways to support Chambas in his other role as the Secretary-General’s High-Level Representative to Nigeria.
Ongoing issues include developments in Burkina Faso and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Presidential elections in five countries during 2015—Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Togo—are also expected to be key issues.
Regarding the overall situation in the region, an option for the Council is adopting a presidential statement that:
- welcomes efforts in the region and by Chambas to resolve the Burkina Faso crisis;
- reiterates calls for international support to address Ebola; and
- requests UNOWA to closely monitor upcoming elections in the region, providing the Council with early warning regarding any potential instability so the Council could take preventive action to avert possible violence.
Regarding the Boko Haram threat, an option for the Council is adopting a resolution that would express grave concern over the regionalisation of the Boko Haram conflict and authorise the task force for 12 months.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Current Security Council member Nigeria has been perceived as opposed to the Council’s consideration of its conflict with Boko Haram. Meanwhile, since May, France, the UK and the US have increased assistance to Nigeria to combat Boko Haram. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Dakar on 16 December 2014 that France would help coordinate efforts to launch the task force.
Following the call by the AU PSC (on which Nigeria currently serves) for the Security Council to authorise the task force, Nigeria appears to have changed its approach. Since early December Nigeria has held discussions with the P5 on a resolution. Chad, which is contributing to the task force and is also a Security Council member while also serving on the AU PSC, strongly favours a resolution that would provide political and financial support for the task force. Chad and France have apparently succeeded in encouraging Nigeria to proceed with the draft. By late December 2014, Nigeria circulated to all Council members the draft resolution on behalf of Lake Chad Basin Commission countries and Benin. At press time, the Council was not expected to take-up the draft until the new year.
On Ebola, the US strongly advocated for the Council’s involvement in the issue. Regarding Burkina Faso, France maintains a base in the country for its regional counter-terrorism force Operation Barkhane and helped secure Compaoré’s exile.
Nigeria is the penholder on UNOWA.
|Security Council Resolution
|18 September 2014 S/RES/2177
|In this resolution, the Council determined that the unprecedented extent of the ebola outbreak in Africa constituted a threat to international peace and security.
|Security Council Presidential Statement
|21 November 2014 S/PRST/2014/24
|This was a presidential statement that reiterated grave concern over the epidemic, that Ebola constitutes a threat to international peace and security, recognised progress in scaling-up international assistance and called for further strengthening of response efforts.
|Security Council Press Statements
|17 November 2014 SC/11651
|This press statement welcomed the 16 November signature of a Charter for the Transition in Burkina and the appointment of Michel Kafando as transition president.
|10 November 2014 SC/11639
|This was press statement condemning a suicide attack earlier that day at a school in Nigeria that reportedly killed 48 people.
|5 November 2014 SC/11632
|This press statement expressed deep concern over the security and political crisis in Burkina Faso and urged security forces to hand over power to a civilian led transition and take immediate steps to restore constitutional order.
|15 October 2014 SC/11602
|This was a press statement expressing grave concern about the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, which constitutes a threat to international peace and security, as well as the impact of the Ebola virus on West Africa, in particular, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
|9 July 2014 SC/11466
|This press statement welcomed Said Djinnit’s efforts in his capacity as UN High Representative to Nigeria and wider international efforts to address the threat of Boko Haram; expressed concern over the ebola outbreak in West Africa; and endorsed the establishment of a new analytical unit in UNOWA.
|Security Council Letters
|9 December 2014 S/2014/877
|This letter was on the appointment of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as Special Representative and head of UNMEER.
|9 September 2014 S/2014/661
|This letter was on the appointment of Mohamed Ibn Chambas as Special Representative and head of UNOWA.
|23 December 2013 S/2013/759
|The Security Council extended the UNOWA mandate until 31 December 2016 and requested semi-annual reports.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|21 November 2014 S/PV.7318
|This was a debate on Ebola.
|14 October 2014 S/PV.7279
|This was a briefing on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa by Special Representative Anthony Banbury, head of UNMEER, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun.
|18 September 2014 S/PV.7268
|This was the Security Council open debate on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
|8 July 2014 S/PV.7213
|This was a briefing on the activities of UNOWA.
|Sanctions Committee Documents
|26 June 2014 SC/11455
|This announced the addition of the group Ansaru and Boko Haram leader Abubakar Mohammed Shekau to the Al-Qaida sanctions list.
|22 May 2014 SC/11410
|The 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee listed Boko Haram, subjecting the organisation to an arms embargo and assets freeze.
|26 June 2014 S/2014/442
|This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA.
|General Assembly Document
|19 September 2014 A/RES/69/1
|This General Assembly resolution welcomed the intention of the Secretary-General to establish UNMEER.