UN official reports greater stability in West Africa, but progress remains tenuous

Special Representative Said Djinnit briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

16 January 2012 – Political stability is taking root in West Africa, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council today, cautioning, however, that progress remains tenuous and could be undermined by developments such the presence of an extremist group in Nigeria or the recent disturbances in Guinea-Bissau where soldiers reportedly tried to seize weapons.

“During the reporting period, the sub-region has not seen a repeat of open conflict nor tensions tied with institutional or political crises among States,” Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), said in a briefing.

“Such tensions have lessened in number and intensity. Moreover some countries in the sub-region organized elections that were judged credible by the international community,” said Mr. Djinnit, paying tribute to countries in the region themselves and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), civil society, including women’s groups, for their efforts to solidify stability.

He also praised the role of the UN through its various offices in the region for continuing to support countries in the sub-region.

“Nevertheless, the situation still calls for us to remain wary as progress continues to be tenuous as recent events in Guinea-Bissau demonstrated. Countries in the sub-region are still vulnerable to incidents that can jeopardize progress in peacebuilding, democracy and stability.

“Worrisome developments can come to the forefront such as we have seen in the activities of the Boko Haram group in Nigeria which weighs heavily on peace and security. We must hope that Nigeria shall independently find the necessary resources to tackle these challenges on the security and political fronts.

“It is also important for the international community to make real its support and solidarity in respect to this country that has contributed so much to regional and international peace and security,” said Mr. Djinnit.

The Boko Haram extremist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for a series of bloody terrorist attacks in Nigeria in recent months. It also claimed responsibility for the attack on the UN building in Abuja in late August that resulted in the deaths of 24 people, including 12 of the world body’s staff.

“In this context of tenuous progress, the successful conclusion of political dialogue and national reconciliation, processes in the countries of the sub-region, particularly in Togo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, will be decisive in ensuring that progress in West Africa in peace and democracy are lasting,” said Mr. Djinnit.

While the West African sub-region was spared conflicts and violent crises during the second half of last year, it has had to tackle a re-emergence of trans-border threats, particularly increased maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, Mr. Djinnit added.

He said UNOWA will in the coming months continue to mobilize the UN system as a whole, and shore up its partnerships with sub-regional organizations and civil society, particularly women, to strengthen stability and prevent crises which could undermine steps taken towards peace, democracy and development.


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