UN Office for West Africa
Expected Council Action
In July, Mohammed 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.
Key Recent Developments
The Boko Haram threat has continued to impact the situation in Nigeria and the region. In February, forces from Chad and Niger intervened in Nigeria’s northeast, while Nigeria, reportedly assisted by South African mercenaries, launched an offensive against Boko Haram after announcing the postponement of presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 14 February due to security conditions. Over the next six weeks, most cities and towns previously seized by Boko Haram were recaptured.
Nigeria’s elections were held on 28 March, and were conducted relatively peacefully. Mohammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and a former general and head of state, who promised to defeat Boko Haram and fight corruption, prevailed over the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari’s inauguration on 29 May marked the first time that the Nigerian presidency was transferred democratically to an opposition leader. Buhari travelled to Niger and Chad on 3 and 4 June to discuss efforts to combat the group and then attended the 7-8 June G7 summit in Germany to request increased international assistance for such efforts.
At an 11 June summit in Abuja, leaders of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria met to finalise plans for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) has authorised to total 10,000 military personnel. Buhari announced Nigeria would provide the MNJTF with $100 million, and the five countries committed to the force’s deployment by 30 July. The summit communiqué also called on the Security Council to adopt “a declarative statement in support of the MNJTF”. Previously, on 29 May, the MNJTF’s new headquarters was inaugurated in N’Djamena, Chad, and Nigerian general Tukur Buratai was installed as force commander.
Despite some progress fighting Boko Haram, the group remains a significant threat. Since late May there has been an uptick in Boko Haram terrorist attacks. These include the killing of 26 people on 30 May by a suicide bomber at a mosque in Maiduguri; a bomb explosion killing 45 in Yola, Adamawa state; and the killing of 43 people in six villages in Damboa, Borno state, on 10 June. Boko Haram is also believed responsible for suicide bombings at two police facilities in N’Djamena on 15 June that killed at least 25 people, representing the group’s first attacks in the Chadian capital. On 17 June, Boko Haram attacks on two towns in Niger killed at least 40. Nigeria also continues to cope with a major humanitarian crisis, with more than 1.5 million internally displaced persons due to the conflict, 200,000 refugees in the region and as many as 5 million Nigerians needing assistance.
Internal turmoil has continued in several other countries in the region. In Guinea, opposition protests have been ongoing since the electoral commission announced on 10 March that presidential elections would take place in October and local elections would be postponed until 2016. Local elections, last held in 2005, have been repeatedly delayed. Chambas travelled to Guinea several times to facilitate political dialogue, while UNOWA deployed a technical team.
In Burkina Faso, transitional president Michel Kafando announced on 22 January that presidential and legislation elections would be held on 11 October. On 4 February, members of the presidential guard called for interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida to resign amidst plans to reduce the unit’s size. A 7 February compromise resolved the brief threat to Burkina Faso’s transition. Tensions have also revolved around changes to the electoral code that ban candidates who supported a constitutional amendment to presidential term limits last year, which would have allowed former President Blaise Compaoré to run for a third term.
At a 19 May summit of the Economic Community of West African States, a proposal to ban presidential third terms was deferred, as Togo—whose president won a third term in April—and Gambia—whose president has ruled since 1994 and defeated a coup attempt in December 2014—opposed it.
Regarding the Ebola epidemic in the region, almost two months after being declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization (WHO), Liberia announced its first new case on 30 June. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, WHO raised concerns following an increase in Ebola cases for two consecutive weeks in late May and June.
Developments in the Council’s Subsidiary Bodies
The Security Council’s Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa met on 22 June to discuss the prospects of mitigating pre- and post-electoral challenges in Africa. Chambas, briefing via video teleconference, highlighted elements important for successful democratic elections, including: the independence of national electoral commissions, the role of civil society groups, freedom of the press and access to media for candidates, and the impartiality and neutrality of security forces. He referred to Nigeria’s elections as a success amidst concerns over the potential for violence.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council held a special session on Boko Haram on 1 April. It adopted a resolution requesting a report on human rights violations committed by Boko Haram for submission at its 30th session (A/HRC/RES/S-23/1). In a statement on 5 June, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that interviews conducted by the Human Rights Office with individuals who had fled or were rescued from towns held by Boko Haram painted a picture of “absolute terror and grave human rights violations” by the insurgents, including wanton killings, summary executions, forced participation in military operations (including the use of children to detonate bombs), forced labour, forced marriage, sexual violence and rape. The statement also highlighted reports of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law by Nigerian armed forces. The High Commissioner urged the new Nigerian administration to take urgent measures to bring perpetrators, whether non-state or state actors, to justice and called on the authorities to ensure that counter-insurgency operations do not result in furthering the human rights devastation in the country’s northeast.
How the Council can support regional efforts to address the Boko Haram threat remains a key issue.
The current electoral cycle in West Africa, including presidential elections this year in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, is also a key issue.
The Council may issue a statement highlighting its intention to pay close attention to electoral processes in West Africa and stressing the importance for all actors to create conducive conditions for free, credible and peaceful elections that are scheduled later this year or in 2016.
In considering Boko Haram, the Council may adopt a presidential statement that:
- welcomes regional efforts to address the threat of the group;
- urges international support of the MNJTF;
- stresses that the MNJTF conduct operations in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law; and
- appeals for the international community to scale up support to address more adequately the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict.
Members seem to value the role that Chambas, who is also the Secretary-General’s High-Level Representative to Nigeria, has played. As Council members were negotiating a resolution last March on Boko Haram, the US asked Chambas to brief on the group’s impact in the region, a meeting held the day after Nigeria completed voting in the presidential election. The Council’s last meeting on UNOWA in January also focused heavily on Boko Haram and risks to Nigeria’s elections.
Earlier this year, the Council seemed poised to become more involved in addressing the conflict. The 30 March briefing was the Council’s first specifically on Boko Haram. At that time, Council members were considering a draft resolution circulated by Chad on behalf of the African Council members, Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) members and the AU that sought Council backing of the MNJTF, including financial support. Four expert-level meetings were held but negotiations stalled after Nigeria changed its position and opposed a resolution under Chapter 7. P3 members said that they would not impose a Chapter 7 resolution against the will of Nigeria as the country most affected by the conflict. Chad, which has pushed for stronger Council engagement on the issue, eventually ended its efforts to have the resolution adopted. Chad realised it would be unable to obtain a resolution that included the funding support it thought requisite. The P3 would only support establishing a trust fund, which Chad felt would not provide significant enough resources. Furthermore, there was less need for a resolution after Nigeria offered to provide most of the MNJTF’s funding. In light of the request by LCBC countries for a Council statement in support of the MNJTF, members may start negotiating a draft presidential statement, which Chad circulated in late May.
Nigeria is the penholder on West Africa.
KEY DOCUMENTS ON UNOWA
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|19 January 2015 S/PRST/2015/4||This was a presidential statement condemning attacks by Boko Haram, highlighting the group’s use of children as suicide bombers on 10 and 11 January and Boko Haram’s attack on the town of Baga, Nigeria from 3 to 7 January.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|15 June 2015 SC/11927||This statement condemned Boko Haram attacks on 15 June in N’Djamena, Chad.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|30 March 2015 S/PV.7421||This was a briefing on the security, political and humanitarian situation in Boko Haram-affected areas by Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang and the head of the UNOWA, Mohammed Ibn Chambas .|
|8 January 2015 S/PV.7357||This was a briefing by the Special Representative and head of UNOWA, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, on the Secretary-General’s report on UNOWA.|
|24 June 2015 S/2015/472||This was on developments in West Africa and the activities of UNOWA.|