May 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2013
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Peace and Security in Africa

Expected Council Action

In May, the Council is expected to be briefed in consultations by the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, on the Secretary-General’s report on the Sahel. The much delayed and anticipated UN integrated strategy for the Sahel requested by the Council in resolution 2056 of 5 July 2012, is annexed to the report.

The Council also expects to hold a debate on “Peace and Security in Africa: the challenges of the fight against terrorism in Africa in the context of maintaining international peace and security” with a briefing from the Secretary-General. The debate will probably highlight the situation on the Sahel, and Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé will preside. The chairs of African subregional organisations are also likely to attend. A presidential statement is the anticipated outcome.

Key Recent Developments

In resolution 2056 the Council asked the Secretary-General to develop and implement, in consultation with regional organisations, a UN integrated strategy for the Sahel region encompassing security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian issues. On 9 October 2012, Prodi was appointed as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, responsible mainly for the development of this strategy.

In a 10 December presidential statement, the Council reiterated the urgent need for an integrated UN strategy for the Sahel and for enhanced cooperation and coordination between states of the Sahel and the Maghreb in collaboration with relevant UN entities and regional and international partners, in order to combat Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (S/PRST/2012/26). The statement said this coordinated effort was necessary to prevent further progress by AQIM elements and affiliated groups in the Sahel and Maghreb regions and beyond, as well as to tackle arms proliferation and transnational organised crime, including illicit activities such as drug trafficking.

As stated in both resolution 2056 and the presidential statement, the security dimension has been key in signalling the need for a comprehensive strategy that blurs the traditional regional boundaries between West Africa and the Maghreb.

The Sahel region has recently been the focus of increased attention by the Council and its subsidiary organs, in particular the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. The four individuals listed so far in 2013 by the Committee all operate in the Sahel. The two last entities listed are Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) and Ansar Eddine (5 December 2012 and 19 March 2013 respectively). A special meeting of the Committee was held in March on the situation in Mali. From 13-15 March, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) held a conference in Rabat, Morocco, on border-control cooperation in the Sahel and the Maghreb. The 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) decided to hold in the fall a special meeting open to the wider UN membership on the topic “enhancing cooperation and technical assistance to states in the Sahel region to strengthen their capacity in the global fight against terrorism”.

Under the auspices of the AU, there have been initiatives to encourage synergies in counterterrorism in the region. A ministerial-level meeting held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on 17 March was aimed at operationalising the African Peace and Security Architecture in the Sahelo-Saharan region. On 18 April a meeting of the heads of the intelligence services in the region was held in Bamako, Mali.

The Council has issued several press statements in 2013 condemning in the strongest terms terrorist attacks in the region, including In Aménas, Algeria, (SC/10887) and on the French embassy in Tripoli, Libya (SC/10984). It also expressed its grave concern regarding the seizure of the city of Konna, Mali, by terrorist and extremist groups in January (SC/10878).

Togo, as President of the Council in May, would like the discussion to be focused on the specifics of the terrorist phenomenon in the Sahel and the Maghreb. The debate may provide a space to discuss such issues as insufficient regional cooperation, lack of resources from affected states and linkages between organised criminal networks and terrorist groups.

Key Issues

A key issue is how much leeway the Council has to get involved in structural prevention and how much added value it offers as opposed to these topics being discussed at the CTC and addressed through the CTITF.

An immediate issue is the lack of regional cooperation and trust among some countries in the region, especially when it comes to sharing intelligence.

Ensuring that prevention does not undermine state sovereignty, or is used as a cover for human rights violations is another key issue.


In the adoption of a presidential statement, options for the Council include:

  • requesting the Secretary-General to develop an early-warning mechanism to alert the Council of possible terrorist threats (“horizon scanning” briefings by the Department of Political Affairs, which have called the attention of the Council to situations of concern, could be used for this purpose);
  • asking the CTITF and its entities to enhance cooperation with regional bodies, such as the AU Commission, the African Centre for Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) and the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services in Africa (CISSA), among others;
  • requesting the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to elaborate an action plan for the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel; and
  • making full use of the 1566 Working Group, which is mandated to examine practical measures that could be imposed upon individuals, groups or entities involved in or associated with terrorist activities, other than those designated by the 1267/1989 Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
Council Dynamics

Although terrorism is a matter of grave concern for all Council members, a debate on a broad region can show differences in their understanding of terrorism, its causes and the most appropriate ways to address it. In the wake of resolution 1973 and the downfall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya, the issue of arms proliferation in the Sahel and their use by terrorist organisations polarised Council discussions. In a region where some terrorist groups claim political objectives and some political movements have violent outlets, Council members may become divided over the categorisation and definition of which groups are considered terrorists.

In the past, Council members have also been divided regarding references to the payment of ransoms for hostages of terrorist groups.

Council members have had high expectations regarding the integrated UN strategy for the Sahel. As it has gone through several drafts over the last ten months, most of them have expressed some degree of frustration regarding the successive deferrals of its presentation.

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UN Documents on Peace and Security in Africa

Security Council Resolution
5 July 2012 S/RES/2056 This resolution expressed the Council’s full support for the joint efforts of ECOWAS, the AU and the transitional authorities in Mali trying to re-establish constitutionality and territorial integrity.
Security Council Presidential Statement
10 December 2012 S/PRST/2012/26 The Council expressed serious concern over the insecurity and the significant ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region, “which is further complicated by the presence of armed groups, including separatist movements, terrorist and criminal networks, and their increased activities, as well as the continued proliferation of weapons from within and outside the region that threaten peace, security, and stability.”
Security Council Press Statements
18 January 2013 SC/10887 This press statement condemned a deadly hostage situation at the In Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria, 37 hostages were killed. Terrorists claiming to be affiliated to the Islamist militants operating in northern Mali claimed that they were acting in reaction to the emergency military intervention by France in Mali. Council members did not draw the connection in this press statement.
10 January 2013 SC/10878 This press statement expressed grave concern over attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in northern Mali.
23 April 2013 SC/10984 This press statement condemned the terrorist attack on the embassy of France in Tripoli, Libya.

Useful Additional Resource

N. Chowdhury Fink and R. Barakat, Preventing Conflict and Terrorism: What Role for the Security Council? Policy Brief, Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, Spring 2013.

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