Amid a “rising tide of democracy” across the African continent, the United Nations must continue to support regional efforts to ensure that the Gambia’s recent election results were upheld, stressed the Organization’s senior official in West Africa and the Sahel as he briefed the Security Council this morning.
Mohammed ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), updated the 15-member Council on the contents of the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the Office’s activities (document S/2016/1072), from 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016, and outlined recent trends and developments in the region.
“The citizens of the region have shown their maturity and their will to freely and peacefully exercise their right to choose their leaders,” he said. For example, Cabo Verde and Ghana had successfully carried out presidential elections while strictly respecting norms and standards.
On 1 December 2016, voters had waited patiently to cast their ballots in the Gambia, in an election that took place against the backdrop of opposition members being imprisoned and a communications shutdown, he said. Having delivered a concession speech on 2 December 2016, President Yahya Jammeh had then changed his mind and rejected the election’s results, citing irregularities. A political crisis had quickly ensued.
Recalling that he had taken part in a 13 December 2016 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State mission to the country, he said he had since been working to facilitate interactions and negotiations aimed at ensuring a peaceful transfer of power from the outgoing President to President-elect Adama Barrow. ECOWAS had agreed to uphold the results of the 1 December 2016 election and take all necessary measures to enforce the results.
In that vein, he said, UNOWAS had been involved in supporting the ECOWAS-led mediation. A high-level delegation had returned to Banjul today in an attempt to persuade President Jammeh to abide by the election results and step down. “They plan to leave no doubt about the determination of ECOWAS to use all necessary means, including force, to have the will of the Gambian people upheld,” he said.
Despite a pre-election period that was at times marked by high political tensions, he said, the people of Ghana had lived up to their reputation of holding elections that served as an inspiration for the “rising tide of democracy” throughout the African continent. In that regard, he commended outgoing President John Dramani Mahama for his gracious acceptance of the election results, and congratulated President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on his victory.
Turning to the situation in Guinea, he expressed concern that the local elections scheduled to take place in February could be postponed due to a lack of consensus between the ruling party and the opposition on the balloting system, among other issues. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the region, a number of countries were taking steps to update their Constitutions and build the foundations for prosperous, cohesive and democratic societies.
During the reporting period, he said, a number of parents in Nigeria had been reunited with their daughters who had been captured by Boko Haram in the north-eastern town of Chibok in 2014. Several terrorists had collectively surrendered to the authorities due in part to the efforts of troop-contributing countries and other partners of the Multinational Joint Task Force established to combat Boko Haram.
At the same time, however, that group’s attacks had become more frequent, disrupting the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes, he said. Hundreds of thousands of children across the Lake Chad Basin region were severely malnourished, he added, expressing concern that the Nigerian Humanitarian Response Plan remained less than 37 per cent funded.
Looking forward, he said, UNOWAS would contribute to the implementation of Council resolution 2282 (2016) on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as the General Assembly’s resolution on sustaining peace. It would also provide support on issues related to regional stabilization, including through the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and would help to promote and coordinate a holistic approach addressing the root causes of deprivation, exclusion and insecurity.
Concluding, he pledged to strengthen the Office’s relationship with regional and subregional partners, as well as with United Nations peacekeeping missions in the region, and to redouble its efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace in West Africa and the Sahel.
Following the briefing, the representative of Uruguay congratulated Benin, Guinea, Senegal and Ghana on their commitment to democracy and political dialogue. Despite the scarcity of resources, they had spared no effort in their fight against terrorism. On the political situation in Guinea Bissau and the Gambia, he expressed regret that leaders had not honoured their commitments. Welcoming the mediation efforts of ECOWAS in that regard, he invited both countries to find a political solution.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 10:24 a.m.