Expected Council Action
In December, Special Envoy for the Sahel Hiroute Guebre Sellassie is expected to brief the Council on the implementation of the UN’s integrated Sahel strategy. No outcome is expected.
Key Recent Developments
In recent months, the security and political situation in the different Sahel countries has worsened or remained unstable.
In Mali, there has been an increase in attacks on the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which have been attributed to extremist groups and at least 21 peacekeepers have been killed since 2 September. The situation in Libya strongly impacts the security situations of Sahel countries and fighting has intensified in Tripoli and Benghazi while the Al-Qaida linked terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia has maintained control over the town of Derna, declaring an emirate.
Nigeria’s worsening conflict with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast has led to increased military cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbours Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger through the framework of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. They agreed in Niamey, Niger on 7 October to commence a multinational joint task force on 1 November. The situation with Boko Haram in Nigeria has also led to increased international assistance, including from France, the UK and the US.
Despite the attention the Boko Haram threat received following the 17 May Paris Summit, the group captured and has held several towns since late July across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, declaring a caliphate on 24 August in Gwoza. It seized the cities of Bama in September and Mubi in late October, though the military and civilian militia later retook them. At least 650,000 people have been displaced by the conflict since May 2013, when Nigeria declared a state of emergency in the three states. More than 100,000 people (both Nigerian and Niger citizens living in Nigeria) have fled to Niger, and 2,700 refugees have been received by Chad. Additionally, at least 43,000 Nigerians have fled to Cameroon.
In Burkina Faso, the country’s long-standing president Blaise Compaoré resigned and fled the country on 31 October following protests against his intention to amend the constitution to run for president in 2015. Amidst a power vacuum, the military took over. Negotiations between the military and the opposition, mediated by a joint AU- ECOWAS-UN mission, led to an agreement on 5 November to establish a civilian-led transition and for elections to be held by November 2015. Stakeholders signed a charter on the framework for the transition on 16 November, and the next day Michel Kafando, who served as a permanent representative to the UN on the Security Council in 2008-2009, was named interim president. On 18 November, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Yacouba Zida, who had been leading the military government after Compaoré’s resignation, was appointed interim prime minister. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Council in consultations on Burkina Faso under “any other business” on 4 November. Council members issued press statements on the situation on 5 November and 17 November (SC/11632; SC/11651).
France meanwhile launched the Sahel-wide Operation Barkhane in July. With 3,000 troops and headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad, it supports the counter-terrorism efforts of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. One thousand troops have been kept in Mali from France’s predecessor mission, Operation Serval, while 1,200 are based in Chad and the rest are split between Niger, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.
Sellassie previously briefed the Council on 19 June and highlighted the deteriorating situations in Libya, Mali and Nigeria. She stressed that addressing the Sahel’s security challenges requires an approach that involves North, West and Central African countries. Sellassie also raised concerns about “competing” interventions and strategies and highlighted the need for greater coordination and cooperation among regional and international actors.
On 27 August, the Council adopted a presidential statement that encouraged greater cooperation among stakeholders in implementing the UN’s Sahel strategy and for the Office of the Special Envoy to work closely with the countries of the region and other actors. The statement further welcomed the 16 February establishment of the G5 Sahel, and a plan to create a “follow up group” in New York of permanent representatives of the G5 Sahel and other countries in the region. (At press time, the group had not been established). Additionally the Council expressed its continued grave concern over terrorist groups operating in the Sahel and highlighted some of the regional security initiatives to combat them.
On 18 November, the third meeting of the Ministerial Coordination Platform met in Bamako. The coordination platform, established during the Secretary-General’s high-level visit to the region in November 2013, is currently chaired by Mali and meets every six months bringing together Sahel states, neighbouring countries, regional and international organisations and financial organisations to coordinate international efforts and avoid duplication.
The key issue for the Council is ensuring that the Sahel strategy produces an impact on the security, governance and resilience of Sahel countries.
The destabilisation of the Sahel region due to crises in Libya, Mali and Nigeria is also a key issue.
The political transition in Burkina Faso and its effect on the UN’s efforts to implement its Sahel strategy may be raised.
An ongoing issue is improving coordination between the UN and the G5 Sahel, along with the AU, ECOWAS, EU, the Executive Council of the Community of Sahel-Sahara States and the World Bank, which have developed their own Sahel strategies.
A related issue is Council members’ understanding of the various regional security initiatives, including the Nouakchott Process as part of the AU Peace and Security architecture, the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis and Operation Barkhane.
The Ebola cases that occurred in some countries of the region is an additional issue for the Council to be mindful of.
Transnational crime and the fragile humanitarian situation are ongoing issues.
One option is for the Council to receive the briefing and take no action.
Another option is to issue a statement that:
- highlights the Council’s concern on the impact that crises in the region and terrorist groups’ activities are having on Sahel countries’ stability and;
- reaffirms the need for the different international actors to coordinate their assistance to Sahel states in addressing the region’s multi-dimensional security, development and governance challenges.
An additional option is to organise an interactive dialogue with relevant states, regional and subregional organisations to discuss the different security initiatives being implemented and discuss how these can more fully complement one another and the UN Sahel strategy.
During negotiations on the presidential statement in August, several members wanted to merge the Secretary-General’s reporting requirements on the Sahel strategy with the Council’s consideration of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), given that the upcoming Sahel briefing overlaps considerably with information from the briefings and reports on UNOWA. The Special Envoy apparently did not want the Sahel briefing combined with UNOWA, and keeping the Sahel briefing in December was important for Chad as the penholder on the Sahel and as Council president that month. As a member of the G5 Sahel, a contributor to MINUSMA and a country increasingly impacted by Boko Haram, it has high stakes in the strategy’s implementation and developments in the region.
France, through Operation Barkhane, plays a critical role in addressing terrorist threats across the region.
Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram is destabilising the Sahel region, but it opposes the conflict being more fully addressed by the Council.
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|27 August 2014 S/PRST/2014/17||This was a presidential statement on the Sahel encouraging greater cooperation among stakeholders to implement the UN’s Sahel strategy and with the Office of the Special Envoy.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|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.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|19 June 2014 S/PV.7203||The was a briefing by the Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, on the implementation on the UN integrated Sahel strategy.|
|6 June 2014 S/2014/397||This was a report on the implementation on the UN integrated Sahel strategy.|