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Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy (red tie) chairs the UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel. (Photo: VNA)
Chairing the UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) on January 8, the diplomat stressed that in the context of the worsening situation in the region, countries should join hands to resolve the unstability there, including organised crime and the impact of climate change on regional security.
According to Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Represenative and Head of the UNOWAS, the region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets, with Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso suffering the most.
Recurring attacks have triggered population displacements of more than 5.1 million people, led to the prolonged closure of health and education facilities, and in certain areas reinforced the role of militias and self-defence groups for security, he said.
On behalf of UNOWAS, Chambas spoke highly of agencies in Guinea-Bissau for ensuring safety for the second round of the country’s presidential elections on December 29. However, he warned of the threat of increasing violence when presidential elections take place in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo.
He also mentioned other threats to the nations, including racial conflict, territorial disputes between Nigeria and Cameroon, as well as breakaway activities in other countries.
Terrorism, organised crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, especially in peripheral areas where the State’s presence is weak.
“In those places, extremists provide safety and protection to populations, as well as social services in exchange for loyalty”, he informed the Council, echoing the Secretary-General in saying that for these reasons, “counter-terrorism responses must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations”.
The Special Representative outlined that governments, local actors, regional organisations and the international community are mobilising across the region to respond to these challenges.
Calling “now” the time for action, Chambas drew attention to the importance of supporting regional Governments by prioritising a “cross-pillar approach at all levels and across all sectors”.
Other members of the UNSC also voiced their concerns over rising violence in West Africa. Niger, South Africa and Tunisia lauded UNOWAS’s efforts and roles, and reiterated African countries’ commitment to handling the situation in the region. They also asked the UNSC for further support for UNOWA’s activities in the area.
Other representatives at the event said UNOWAS should focus on helping regional countries successfully hold presidential elections./.