Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at UNSC briefing on the activities of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel

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January 11, 2024


We thank SRSG Simão for his briefing on the current state of affaires in the region and the activities of his Office in the past year. We also followed closely the remarks by Dr Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni.

Situation in the Sahara-Sahel is not getting better. First of all, that is due to the growing terrorist threat. The increasing combat capacity of the “Islamic State in West Africa” complicates the security situation in countries of the Chad Basin. The situation remains tense in north-eastern Nigeria, as well as in Chad, where the authorities must not only address the problems of combating jihadists, but also deal with the numerous refugees from neighboring Sudan and their own internal issues. Terrorist organizations in the Sahel gradually expand their area of operation towards the Gulf of Guinea, including Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo.

The border areas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, located in the so-called “Liptako-Gurma triangle”, remain the epicenter of tension. Jihadists from the “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” and the “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” (SGIM) are becoming more active. Thus, on November 26, 2023, a large SGIM formation attempted to seize a village in Djibo in northern Burkina Faso. On December 3, 2023, fighters from both organizations launched a coordinated attack on military garrisons in four Malian towns in the eastern and central regions.

Achieving long-term stabilization requires collective support of the international community for Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, who are at the forefront of countering trans-African terrorist groups. We welcome their coordinated efforts to combat terrorists. We believe it is destructive that external players persist in trying to topple the unwanted transitional leadership of these countries, including through the use of leverage in the region.

It is important for ECOWAS to establish a dialogue with the three states, overcome internal contradictions and address common threats in the region. We hope that the lifting of ECOWAS’ travel ban for the authorities of Sahelian states will facilitate long-awaited cooperation in the region without the use of ultimatums and sanctions. We are particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Niger. We believe that restoring economic ties is important both for the population of the country itself and for its neighbors in the region.

We believe that the main role in maintaining peace and security in the Sahara-Sahel should belong to the states of the region. In this context, we believe that the authorities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger did the right thing when they adopted a course towards comprehensive integration, an important element of which was the conclusion of an agreement on mutual security commitments by these states on 16 September 2023.

The increased cooperation among three states of the Sahel already yields positive results. Their armed forces are conducting effective joint counter-terrorism operations. For Mali, the restoration of control over the town of Kidal was a landmark event. This result was achieved by the Malian military amidst the difficult circumstances of MINUSMA’s withdrawal and the disintegration of the G5 Sahel.

At the same time, it is important that the transitional authorities in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali are committed to meeting the agreed time frame for a return to constitutional order. At the same time, we do have understanding for the fact that elections in Mali were postponed for technical reasons from early 2024 to a later date. We note Bamako’s efforts to carry out political and institutional reforms and to adopt a new constitution.

The completion of the transition period in those states must take place without the imposition of alien recipes and on the basis of sober and realistic assessments of the situation. That is what guides our country in providing bilateral assistance to those who need it.

We believe there is no need to establish extra reporting as regards the situation in the Sahel or its separate countries. We believe that the reports of the Secretary-General on UNOWAS sufficiently cover the problems of the region at this stage. We support the activities of the Office in that regard.

For our part, we will continue to contribute constructively to the efforts of the global community to achieve stability in the Sahel. We will keep assisting states of the region through both bilateral and multilateral channels. That includes enhancing capacity of national armed forces, training military and law enforcement personnel and providing humanitarian assistance.

Thank you.

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