Briefing and Consultations on UN Office for West Africa
Tomorrow (10 July), the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s most recent report (S/2013/384) on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) from Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOWA, followed by closed consultations. Though no outcome is expected from the session, Council members will be interested to hear updates on the variety of issues that fall within UNOWA’s purview that do not otherwise receive regular Council attention.
Tomorrow’s briefing and consultations are expected to cover a wider range of issues than Djinnit’s last briefing to the Council, on 25 January, which was largely dominated by the situation in Mali. Mali and the Sahel are still expected to be a key part of the briefing, as both feature prominently in the most recent report and Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more from Djinnit regarding the implementation of the recently published UN Sahel strategy (S/2013/354) and how it can be integrated into UNOWA’s existing mandate.
During consultations, Council members will likely exchange views on the subject, with an eye towards UNOWA’s mandate renewal at the end of the year. While Council members appear to be in broad agreement on the Sahel strategy and the lead role it envisions for UNOWA, differences of opinion on the logistics of its implementation may surface during tomorrow’s discussion. A related issue concerns the question of whether or not Djinnit will seek an expanded role on the Sahel beyond UNOWA, as Romano Prodi, the current Special Envoy for the Sahel, whose mandate concludes at the end of the year, has indicated he will not seek re-appointment to that role.
The Secretary-General’s report also provides information on the status of several electoral processes in the region, in particular in Guinea, where Djinnit and UNOWA have played a significant role. Council members last heard a briefing on Guinea on 25 April when Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed on demonstrations in the country that day under “any other business”. In the weeks following that briefing, the crisis in Guinea deepened, as violent clashes accompanied anti-government protests. Following the 20 June withdrawal from a UN mediated inter-Guinéan dialogue by the main opposition leader in Guinea, Djinnit traveled to Conakry on 22 June in an effort to bring the two sides back to talks. On 3 July, the two sides signed an agreement establishing a new electoral timeline and calling for legislative elections to be held by the end of September. Most Council members will likely congratulate Djinnit for his part in facilitating the agreement, though they will also likely want to hear his assessment of the agreement and whether the timetable it proposes is realistic.
Djinnit may also go into detail on several other countries in the region facing electoral issues, including Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia and Mauritania. While the report on UNOWA covers the political tensions in Togo in advance of that country’s scheduled 21 July elections, Council members are not expecting Djinnit to spend much time on the subject in his briefing, as Togo is currently an elected member of the Security Council.
Finally, Djinnit will also likely highlight continuing instability in the region, and the related problems of drugs, crime, Gulf of Guinea piracy and terrorism. On 29 June, ministers from the four countries comprising the Mano River Region (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) met with representatives from the UN (including Djinnit) and the Economic Community of West African States to discuss a joint security strategy for the Mano River Union, a positive development that some Council members may want to hear more about.
On counter-terrorism, Council members may also raise the issue of terrorist violence in Nigeria in consultations, as attacks by the militant group Boko Haram have increased in recent months, leading President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency in three northern states on 14 May. Most recently, a Boko Haram attack on a boarding school on 6 July killed students and staff.