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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July 25, 2023


We thank Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel Leonardo Simão, as well as Chair of the ECOWAS Commission Omar Tyree for the briefings.

The Head and personnel of UNOWAS are faced with truly challenging tasks, especially in view of the current situation in the Sahel. We would like to start off by expressing our support for Mr. Simão and the mechanism under his lead and wish him success in the new office. We proceed form the understanding that the main tasks of UNOWAS are preventive diplomacy, good offices, and mediation in dispute settlement both within West African states and among them. We welcome the contacts of Mr. Simão with countries of the region and his declared priority, namely conjugation of regional efforts in addressing common challenges.

The situation in the region of Sahara-Sahel remains complicated, and that is including the situation with security. The majority of regional states view this as the central problem. The hotbed of tension is located in the border areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” and “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” become more active. Subversive activities by cells of “Boko Haram” and “Islamic State – West Africa Province” exacerbate the already precarious situation in Lake Chad Basin. The situation remains alarming in Burkina Faso, as well as in Chad, which has received an increased influx of refugees fleeing from destabilization in Sudan, which in its turn exacerbated the internal Chadian problems. Terrorist activity has also been observed in the coastal West African countries of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo.

The evolving humanitarian situation is far not easy too. The number of IDPs in the Sahel, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report, stands at more than 6 million people. Approximately 37 million people are in need of various forms of humanitarian assistance. It is clear that states of the region need to enhance their aid in order to overcome the humanitarian consequences of instability.

Obviously, attempts of the European Union to promote stabilization in the Sahel turned out unsuccessful. On the contrary, after unilateral termination of the French operation Barkhane and the EU operation Takuba in Mali and in broader Sahara-Sahel, terrorist threat in the region but increased. The effects of the Western campaign in Libya that ran in violation of UNSC decisions has not been overcome yet. Despite this, Western states keep interfering in the internal affairs of the Sahel at all tracks. Allegations of the representative of France that someone in plundering African resources sound absolutely unacceptable, especially if we recall French colonial history and the fact that well-being of many European states, France included, depended exactly on the plundering of the said resources.

After ten years of work in Mali, a complicated situation has started to unfold around MINUSMA. We approached with understanding the decision of the transitional authorities of Mali to start ensuring security of the population by own forces and opt for withdrawal of MINUSMA, that was articulated at the Security Council meeting on 16 June, followed by the termination of the MINUSMA mandate at the end of that month. We proceed from the assumption that the scope of tasks in the political area to be referred to UNOWAS must be identified in close coordination with Bamako.

Malian authorities continue to do their best to bring the country back to constitutional order in accordance with ECOWAS-established modalities. In particular, on 18 June a referendum on a new constitution took place. Preparations are underway for implementing more elements of the endorsed electoral cycle.

We also note the elections that have convened in others tates of the region. Observance of democratic standards in West African and the Sahel largely depends on the security situation in the region. Stabilization in the Sahara-Sahel, in its turn, depends on the situation in Mali, where authorities bolstered efforts in early 2023 to counter the illegal paramilitary formations and already achieved some results. Clearly, we should help Malians rather them hinder their efforts as they are combating the terrorist threat.

We welcome the decisions of the leaders of ECOWAS that should help to establish interaction with states in transition, as well as the announced trips of the President of Benin to Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. We trust that equitable and respectful dialogue via ECOWAS will help resolve the existing disputes, recover trust, and promote cooperation in the region. We call on states that are outside this region to promote such contacts and abstain from steps that may interfere with this process. What I mean is to keep from bringing to this volatile environment certain geopolitical contradictions that arise from Western countries being wary about the development of relations among states of that region and Russia. As a matter of principle, we are convinced that the main role in maintaining peace and security in the region should belong to its member states. The international community should provide effective assistance in this regard.

Russia will continue to participate constructively, i.a. as a permanent member of the Security Council, in collective efforts aimed at maintenance of security in the Sahara-Sahel and West Africa. At the same time, we will keep focusing on observance of the principle “African solutions to the African problems”. We will continue assisting the states of the continent bilaterally, including by helping to boost combat capacity of armed forces, training military and law enforcement personnel, and also providing humanitarian aid. All this is fully compliant with applicable international legal norms and is welcome by the countries of the region.

Thank you.



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