Remarks by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Briefing on the G5 Sahel

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May 16, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Pobee and Executive Secretary Tiaré for your briefings. And I thank Ms. Diouf for her important remarks centered on the link between security and climate change.

The United States welcomes the efforts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger to revitalize the G5 Sahel, including the February 20 extraordinary summit of Heads of State. In particular, we applaud Mauritania’s efforts – as the newly appointed G5 Sahel President – to revitalize the G5 Sahel institution and refocus its political, security, and development goals as outlined in its recently published roadmap.

The United States is especially concerned by the security, humanitarian, and political crises unfolding in the Sahel, which stem primarily from governance failures. While we respect the need for Sahelian states to address the scourge of terrorism and other violence within their borders, we urge them to recognize the limitations of militarized approaches and to redouble efforts to address structural drivers of instability. This includes enhancing governance, strengthening democratic institutions, improving access to services and justice, and respecting human rights and the rule of law.

We remain concerned by state-led military operations in Mali and Burkina Faso leading to large-scale civilian casualties and reports of human rights violations. In Mali, the transition government’s short-sighted partnership with the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group has not produced greater security for the Malian people and instead reported human rights abuses are fueling grievances among already marginalized groups.

According to the UN Development Program’s February report on violent extremism in Africa, government-led human rights violations and abuses often serve as a “trigger event” accelerating recruitment into violent extremist organizations among at-risk groups. We are appalled by the egregious disregard for human life exhibited by elements of the Malian Armed Forces in cooperation with the Wagner Group – a transnational criminal organization – during the operation in Moura last year.

We commend the UN for its diligence and tenacity in investigating the horrific civilian massacre of civilians in Moura, especially considering the restrictions on MINUSMA. We recall that the mission is mandated to investigate and report on allegations of human rights violations and abuses, and we are deeply troubled by the transition government’s restrictions on MINUSMA’s freedom of movement in violation of the status of forces agreement.

We urge the transition government to uphold its responsibilities as host country to a UN peacekeeping operation. We encourage the transition government to fully consider the recommendations outlined in the UN report, including pursuing an independent, impartial, efficient, exhaustive, and transparent investigation to hold those responsible accountable.

We remain disappointed in Mali’s decision last year to withdraw from the G5 Sahel and urge transition authorities to immediately rejoin the coalition. The interrelated threats of terrorism and violent extremism, climate change, and criminal networks span borders and require transnational approaches.

We extend our support to Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali to complete their transitions to democratically elected, civilian governments. We and other partners are keen to consider restarting currently restricted support. The election of democratic governments would help us resume such assistance.

In this regard, we welcome the Malian transition government’s announcement of a new date for the delayed constitutional referendum and encourage strict adherence to the ECOWAS-agreed timetable for completing Mali’s political transition.

We look forward to the Joint Strategic Assessment on the Sahel being undertaken by the UN, AU, ECOWAS, and G5 Sahel. The United States stands ready to deepen our support for effective solutions to advance peace and security in the region.

Thank you, Madam President.


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