Peace and Security in Africa (Sahel)
Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will be briefed by the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie. Council members will consider the Secretary-General’s report on progress in implementing the UN integrated Sahel strategy, to be released in early June. The Council may adopt a presidential statement.
Key Recent Developments
Over the past few months, the UN sought to further implement its Sahel strategy. On 1 January, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Sahel relocated from Rome to Dakar to be co-located with the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA). As expected, after the mandate of the Special Envoy, Romano Prodi, ended on 31 January, responsibility for implementing the strategy was entrusted to the Office of the Special Envoy under “the overall authority” of Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and head of UNOWA (S/2014/51). On 1 May, the UN announced the appointment of Sellassie as the new Special Envoy. Sellassie formally began her work in Dakar on 12 May.
The five core Sahel countries identified in the UN strategy (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) established the “G5 Sahel” on 16 February. The G5 Sahel, a new regional organisation to be headquartered in Nouackhott, Mauritania with its own secretariat, seeks to enhance cooperation on development and security in the Sahel region and to coordinate efforts to develop infrastructure.
UN efforts to advance the UN strategy included producing a draft 2014-2016 implementation plan, with UN agencies and programmes in the region developing country-specific and regional projects in line with the three pillars of the strategy: governance, security and resilience. The implementation plan was scheduled to be presented to the five core Sahel countries for their validation on 9 April in Nouackhott. However, this meeting and two subsequent rescheduled meetings, the latest being on 26 May, were postponed due to scheduling conflicts with G5 Sahel initiatives.
On 16 May, Mali presented the plan for its two-year presidency of the Coordination Platform at a ministerial meeting in Bamako. The Coordination Platform is meant to coordinate and prevent duplication of international efforts. The establishment of the other mechanism key to the UN Sahel strategy, the Action Fund, to be administered by the African Development Bank for financing infrastructure, remained stalled.
In response to concern over the regrouping of terrorist groups from Mali into southern Libya and other Sahel countries, in May, France announced a new counter-terrorism strategy. Following agreements with the G5 Sahel countries, France would redeploy many of its troops participating in Opération Serval in Mali to regional bases in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger to be able to operate freely across borders. The forces would further be supported by French troops currently in Côte d’Ivoire. (Due to the deterioration in Mali, France has postponed plans to redeploy these forces, and on 22 May announced it was reinforcing Opération Serval with 100 troops.)
Meanwhile, instability across the region worsened. In Mali, at least eight government soldiers and six government officials were killed on 18 May by Tuareg separatists, who then seized Kidal, Tessalit and other locations in an embarrassing defeat for the government, renewing concerns about a civil war and raising serious questions about the coordination, or lack thereof, of operations with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Opération Serval. That same weekend, Libya saw some of its worst fighting since the end of the 2011 revolution; Prodi previously described Libya as “especially critical” to security in the Sahel and urged the international community to coordinate its strategies on the Sahel and Libya (S/PV.7081). Continuing and worsening attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria drew more international attention to the group. The organisation was added by the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee to its sanctions list on 22 May, and has reportedly metastasized into Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic.
When the Council last considered the Sahel on 12 December 2013, it adopted a presidential statement that reiterated its concerns about the region and reaffirmed that the Secretary-General should ensure early implementation of the integrated strategy (S/PRST/2013/20).
The key issue for the Council is ensuring that the Sahel strategy produces impact. A related issue of concern is the slow progress in its implementation, and whether the strategy remains adequate with the current security deterioration across the region and the recent lapses in coordination between relevant actors on the ground, most recently between Mali vis-à-vis MINUSMA and Opération Serval.
Another issue is concern about competition and lack of cooperation between the UN and other initiatives, such as the G5 Sahel. The AU and ECOWAS have also been developing Sahel strategies, in addition to the EU’s Sahel strategy.
The Council might adopt a presidential or press statement that:
- conveys its support for the new Special Envoy, expresses concern over slow implementation of the UN Sahel strategy and calls for greater cooperation from countries and actors in the region; or
- mandates a review of the strategy in light of the changes in security situations on the ground.
Taking no action is another option for the Council.
Several Council members have high stakes in the Sahel, particularly Chad, a member of the G5 Sahel, and Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based. This will be the first meeting on the Sahel since both countries joined the Council. Additionally, France, having forces in Mali and with plans to conduct broader counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel, has keen interests in the region.
In 2013, France and Morocco both took the lead to draft presidential statements on the Sahel. If the Council seeks a presidential statement in June, it might be initiated by France or Chad.
UN Documents on Peace and Security in Africa (Sahel)
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|12 December 2013 S/PRST/2013/20||This presidential statement focused on the situation in the Sahel.|
|16 July 2013 S/PRST/2013/10||This presidential statement reaffirmed the Council’s concern about the alarming situation in the region as well as the complex security and political challenges interlinked with humanitarian and developmental issues.|
|14 June 2013 S/2013/354||This report on the Sahel contained the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel.|
|Security Council Letter|
|27 January 2014 S/2014/51||This was a letter from the Secretary-General informing the Council of the change in leadership of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel.|