Expected Council Action
In November, the Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the UN’s integrated Sahel strategy. The Council may adopt a presidential statement.
Key Recent Developments
The Sahel region, including the core countries identified in the UN’s Sahel Strategy (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), continues to be beset by challenges posed by terrorist groups and other non-state actors, as well as political instability.
Following successes by Nigeria and its neighbours in regaining territory seized by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s north-east, the terrorist group has increased the use of asymmetrical attacks. This includes expanding attacks in Chad and Niger, both of which sent forces to Nigeria earlier in the year to fight Boko Haram and have committed forces to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) being formed by Lake Chad Basin Commission countries (LCBC) and Benin. On 15 June, Boko Haram conducted its first attack on Chad’s capital N’djamena, when suicide bombers attacked two police facilities, killing at least 25 people. Boko Haram also continues to raid communities around Lake Chad. Attacks on 10 October by five suicide bombers in the Chadian village of Baga Sola and a nearby camp hosting Nigerian refugees killed at least 37 people.
Niger placed its south-eastern state of Diffa under a 15-day state of emergency on 14 October, following Boko Haram-related violence that killed more than 40 people in preceding weeks. (Diffa was placed under a similar state of emergency in February.) OCHA reported that as of 4 October, there have been at least 57 attacks by or clashes with Boko Haram in Diffa this year. The MNJTF’s headquarters opened in N’djamena in May, and on 20 October, the force commander, Nigerian General Tukar Buratai, said the force had commenced operations.
In Burkina Faso, a coup was carried out on 16 September by the Republican Security Regiment (RSP), an elite military unit created under former President Blaise Compoaré. The coup occurred less than a month before scheduled presidential and legislative elections meant to conclude Burkina Faso’s political transition, which the AU, Economic Community of West African States and UN helped broker in November 2014 after Compoaré’s resignation. On 23 September, the coup was reversed when the transitional government was reinstated. The RSP was subsequently disbanded by a government decree. Members of the regiment who refused to disarm were captured in a raid on their main base on 30 September by the Burkina Faso army, which apart from the RSP remained loyal to the transitional government. On 14 October, the transitional authorities agreed to reschedule the elections for 29 November.
Mali and Libya continued to be plagued by violence and political instability negatively impacting the region. Worrying trends have been the expansion of attacks by extremist groups into central and southern Mali, such as a 7 March terrorist attack in Bamako, which killed five people, and a 7 August attack at a hotel in Sevare, killing 13 (including four UN contractors). Trafficking networks of migrants through the Sahel to Libya have generated increased attention, amidst the influx of migrants and refugees to Europe and the dangers and exploitation they face. According to the International Organization for Migration, migrants arriving in Europe by sea from Libya in 2015 numbered almost 140,000 as of 23 October, with more than 2,800 deaths.
Meanwhile, the Group of Five Sahel (G5)—the regional organisation established last year by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—has made progress in implementing initiatives for improved security cooperation and regional development, which the Special Envoy has sought to support. On 27 September, a meeting was held during the UN’s high-level week in New York involving G5 foreign ministers, G5 Sahel Permanent Secretary Najim Elhadj Mohamed, the Special Envoy, Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman and the heads of the UN Office for West Africa and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Participants took stock of developments and welcomed cooperation under the coordination of Sellassie, according to the joint communique.
The presence of terrorist groups and regional and bilateral efforts to combat them remains a key issue. Related to this is the destabilising impact on the region of violence in Mali, north-eastern Nigeria and Libya.
The impact and results of projects of UN agencies in the Sahel to address root causes of instability, such as poor governance and under-development, is a key issue, together with the coordination of these efforts under the umbrella of the UN Sahel strategy with other regional and multilateral initiatives.
The role of organised crime networks in drug, arms and human trafficking, which undermines reforms and is a potential funding source for terrorist and armed groups, is a related issue.
Upcoming elections in Burkina Faso, amidst its political tensions, is an ongoing issue.
The Council may adopt a presidential statement that:
- welcomes the cooperation between the Special Envoy and the G5 Sahel;
- expresses continued concern over the activities of extremist and armed groups, organised crime, and youth radicalisation in the region;
- reaffirms the importance of the international community remaining committed to a regional approach to address the root causes of instability in Sahel countries, such as the need for governance reforms and enhanced economic development;
- looks forward to the recommendations of the UN strategic review of the Special Envoy’s office to be conducted in December; and
- establishes a new reporting cycle for the Secretary-General.
The statement could additionally address regional initiatives, such as by commending efforts to operationalise the MNJTF with assistance from the international community, or highlighting initiatives of the AU’s Nouakchott process to enhance security cooperation among Sahelo-Saharan states.
This will be the Council’s first meeting to consider the Sahel as a region since last December. Overall, members seem to recognise that addressing the region’s security challenges requires a holistic approach that entails improving governance and promoting development, the lack of which produces discontent, distrust of authorities or radicalisation that attracts populations to extremist groups or organised crime. Members, though, have previously expressed concern that the strategy’s implementation has been slow and in this upcoming meeting are keen to see concrete results. Some members also had concern last year about a lack of cooperation between the G5 Sahel and the Special Envoy’s Office, which was expressed in their 27 August 2014 presidential statement by encouraging the UN office and G5 countries to work more closely. This relationship seems to have since improved.
Chad, as a core Sahel State and part of the G5 Sahel, is the penholder. It has been active in contributing its military to efforts in Mali and in combatting Boko Haram. Nigeria’s north is also part of the Sahel region, but Nigeria has often been sensitive to the Council addressing the Boko Haram threat. Among other members, France, which has longstanding relations with Sahel states, maintains forces in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad as part of its counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane.
The region’s problems may have added new significance for European members in light of the attention to its migrant crisis, since the Sahel is a source and transit point for many migrants making their way to Europe.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE SAHEL
|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|
|12 October 2015 SC/12075||This was a press statement condemning the 10 and 11 October terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Baga Sola, Chad and Kangaleri, Cameroon.|
|24 September 2015 SC/12057||This was a press statement that welcomed the reinstatement of Burkina Faso’s transitional authorities and called for resuming the transition process without delay.|
|15 June 2015 SC/11927||This statement condemned Boko Haram attacks on 15 June in N’Djamena, Chad.|
|6 June 2014 S/2014/397||This was a report on the implementation on the UN integrated Sahel strategy.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|11 December 2014 S/PV.7335||This was a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, on progress towards the implementation of the UN Sahel strategy.|