Statement by Ambassador James Kariuki at the UN Security Council meeting on West Africa and the Sahel

The Wagner group has not and cannot deliver long-term security in West Africa

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25 July 2023

Let me start by congratulating SRSG Simão on his appointment and thank him and ECOWAS Commission President Touray for their briefing. I will make three points focusing on democracy, security and humanitarian issues.

First, while welcoming the democratic progress in parts of the region, the United Kingdom is concerned by democratic uncertainty and shrinkage of civic space in some countries.

Progress towards the restoration of constitutional governments in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea has been too slow.

We need to redouble our collective efforts to hold transitional administrations to account on election timetables. We urge UNOWAS to continue supporting countries to conduct free and fair elections and note with concern the recent election discrepancies in Sierra Leone.

Second, we remain concerned about the Sahel region’s deteriorating security situation and instability, including the risk of its spreading to the coastal states.

We look forward to the SG’s forthcoming transition plan for MINUSMA, including how UNOWAS can support Mali’s transition and peace agreement.

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting civilian rights. That is why we are concerned by the damage being done by the Russian mercenary group Wagner across the region.

Their track record proves Wagner has not and cannot deliver long-term security. From Mali to Ukraine, and even Russia, all Wagner offers is chaos and destruction – and it is civilians who suffer most.

Now, that President Putin has acknowledged Wagner is funded by the Russian state after years of denial, we call on Russia to hold accountable those responsible for its human rights abuses, rapes and killings.

We welcome increased regional security coordination, including the Accra Initiative.

We encourage efforts that provide coordinated and targeted support, including those that are complementary to wider regional initiatives.

The UK is also reinforcing African security through our contributions to multilateral peacekeeping and conflict prevention. And our bilateral security partnerships, including with Ghana and Nigeria and bilateral humanitarian and development funding.

Third, the humanitarian situation in the Sahel remains dire, including pockets of famine in Burkina Faso.

It is essential humanitarian actors are allowed safe and unimpeded access. And as we’ve heard today, the humanitarian and security challenges are exacerbated by climate change.

In closing, we look forward to continuing working in partnership with UNOWAS and ECOWAS to help address these complex regional challenges and build regional peace and security.

We join those members in calling for adoption of a PRST [Presidential Statement] to underpin our support for the mission of UNOWAS.

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