UNOWA (West Africa)
Expected Council Action
In July the Council expects to receive a briefing on the work of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) from Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOWA. At press time, the semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on UNOWA was due on 28 June. The Council is not likely to take any action following the briefing.
UNOWA’s mandate expires on 31 December.
Key Recent Developments
Djinnit last briefed the Council on 25 January, presenting the December UNOWA report (S/2012/977). In his remarks, Djinnit focused on the situation in Mali and the risk that the conflict there might spread to neighbouring states. Beyond the Sahel, he noted peaceful elections in Ghana and Sierra Leone but cautioned that the international community would need to remain vigilant across West Africa to avoid post-election violence. Djinnit also highlighted the threat posed by piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the overall threat posed by transnational organised crime and terrorism.
On Mali, the 26 March report of the Secretary-General noted that Djinnit had been instrumental in supporting the mediation efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and in assisting with negotiations between the government of Mali and rebel groups in northern Mali (S/2013/189). On 17 May, the Secretary-General announced his intention to appoint Albert Gerard Koenders as his new Special-Representative for Mali. Koenders took up the post on 4 June. Although the arrival of Koenders may signal that Djinnit can be less focused on Mali in the coming months, the 14 June UN integrated strategy for the Sahel region makes clear that implementation of the strategy “should rest on the strong engagement of UNOWA” in the region (S/2013/354).
Beyond Mali, Djinnit has been especially focused on elections in Guinea, which have been postponed four times and are currently expected to be held in July. On 27 February opposition activists initiated protests against the government of President Alpha Condé, whom they accused of trying to rig the polls. According to news reports, more than 50 people have been killed in violent clashes related to the protests since February. (Most recently, on 19 June several opposition activists were injured when police moved to disperse an anti-government protest.) In April, Djinnit was appointed to a team of international facilitators working to bring about an inclusive national dialogue in Guinea. He travelled to Conakry twice to meet with several Guinean stakeholders. On 25 April Council members received a briefing in consultations about Guinea under “any other business” from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman on demonstrations that day in Conakry. On 29 April, the Council issued a press statement expressing concern over the situation in the country, welcoming a 23 April joint declaration of non-violence signed by key stakeholders and calling upon all parties to cooperate with Djinnit to promote national dialogue and free, fair, transparent and inclusive legislative elections in Guinea (SC/10992).
On 22 May, Djinnit convened a consultative meeting between the prime minister of Guinea and opposition leaders in Conakry, an event he characterised as an “initial promising step” towards the holding of free, transparent and peaceful elections. On 5 June, the first session of an inter-Guinean dialogue was held, drawing together supporters of President Condé and members of the opposition, with Djinnit’s assistance and facilitation. On 9 June, he reported to the press that significant progress had been made and that opposition parties had agreed to join the electoral process following concessions on both sides. However, on 17 June the electoral commission announced that elections would be delayed for a fourth time to allow opposition party members to register as candidates. On 20 June the main opposition leader withdrew from talks following the 19 June violence. At press time, Djinnit had returned to Conakry on 22 June in an effort to encourage the opposition and the government to return to the dialogue.
Regarding piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, on 19 March Djinnit (along with the head of the UN Office for Central Africa) attended the Ministerial Conference on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea in Cotonou, Benin, organised by the Economic Community of Central African States, ECOWAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission. Three memoranda of understanding were adopted at the meeting. On 18 June, the Oceans Beyond Piracy project released a report indicating that in 2012 piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had overtaken piracy off the coast of Somalia, finding that 966 seafarers were attacked in West Africa, compared with 851 in the horn of Africa.
On 18 June the Secretary-General released a report (S/2013/359) on transnational organised crime and illicit drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel that had been requested by a 21 February 2012 presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/2). The report provides updates on developments in the region since 2008 and offers 28 recommendations for member states, international partners and the UN, including strengthening cooperation and coordination among all the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General in West Africa and the Sahel.
The commission on the demarcation of the border between Nigeria and Cameroon (the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission), chaired by Djinnit, held its 31st session from 23-26 April where the parties agreed to resume placement of boundary demarcation pillars.
The key issue for the Council is ensuring that UNOWA can continue to provide support to the range of UN efforts in the region, not only in countries of concern such as Mali and Guinea, but also in encouraging regional cooperation on thematic issues such as piracy, terrorism, drugs and crime. The role UNOWA will play in the newly published Sahel strategy will also be of particular interest to Council members.
In July, the Council could:
- receive the briefing and take no further action; or
- adopt a statement addressing one or more of the issues on which UNOWA has played a leading role, most likely regarding events in Guinea or the growing threats of piracy, organised crime and terrorism in West Africa.
Council members generally consider the receipt of the UNOWA report to be routine. Even so, with the renewal of UNOWA’s mandate approaching in December, some Council members are beginning to consider ways in which UNOWA could play an even more productive role in the region. Most are quite pleased with the work Djinnit has accomplished during his tenure, though some are interested in strengthening the support his office is able to provide him.
Togo is the penholder on UNOWA.
UN Documents on UNOWA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 February 2012 S/RES/2039||Welcomed the Secretary-General’s assessment mission on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and called on states to implement its recommendations.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|21 February 2012 S/PRST/2012/2||Was on the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel Region, including piracy.|
|18 June 2013 S/2013/359||This Secretary-General’s report was on transnational organised crime and illicit drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel.|
|14 June 2013 S/2013/354||This report on the Sahel contained the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel.|
|26 March 2013 S/2013/189||This report contained the Secretary-General’s recommendations for a UN mission in Mali.|
|31 December 2012 S/2012/977||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|25 January 2013 S/PV.6911||Said Djinnit, Special Representative and head of UNOWA, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s report. He cited the ongoing crisis in the Sahel, especially in Mali, as well as in Guinea-Bissau, and the overall threat posed by transnational organised crime and terrorism in the West Africa region.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|29 April 2013 SC/10992||The Council expressed concern over the volatile situation in the country, welcomed the joint declaration and called upon all parties to cooperate with Special Representative Said Djinnit with a view towards national dialogue and free, fair, transparent and inclusive legislative elections in Guinea.|