Briefing the Security Council today, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa painted a mixed picture of the situation in the region, noting the completion of peaceful elections in several nations, as well as the continuing threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.
Mohamed ibn Chambas, who is also head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), presented the 15-member body with the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNOWA’s activities (document S/2015/1012). He said peaceful, credible elections had been held in several nations of the region over the last six months, and presidential polls were slated for 2016 in Benin, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Ghana and Niger. Dialogue must prevail in resolving all election-related issues.
In Burkina Faso, the transitional institutions had ensured the timely holding of presidential and legislative polls, notwithstanding challenges following a failed coup d’état in September, he said. The inauguration of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré marked a successful end to the transition period. Meanwhile, in Guinea, thanks to a dialogue process supported by the United Nations in coordination with regional and international actors, presidential elections were held in line with constitutional deadlines, an important milestone in the country’s process of democratic consolidation.
Peaceful elections had also been held in Côte d’Ivoire, resulting in the re-election of incumbent President Alassane Ouattara. And he was encouraged by the establishment of a new Government in Nigeria and its commitment to actively combating corruption.
Nevertheless, he stressed, violent extremism and terrorist activities remained a major threat to security and development in the region, further aggravating humanitarian challenges. Despite some progress in the fight against Boko Haram, the terrorist group continued its indiscriminate attacks against civilians not only in Nigeria, but also in Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Countries of the region had intensified counter-terrorism efforts as a response and had improved cooperation in areas such as intelligence sharing. As they responded to continued threats, however, he stressed that it was critical that nations adhere to international human rights, humanitarian and refugee laws; and that they address the root causes of insurgency.
Describing recent progress in security sector reform, he went on to emphasize that drug trafficking and transnational organized crime continued to threaten the region. In that regard, he said he had recently chaired a meeting of the High-Level Policy Committee of the West Africa Coast Initiative, and noted the commitment of countries in the region to combat the “scourge” of drug trafficking and organized crime.
Regrettably, progress had been slower in the area of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, he said. The Inter-regional Coordination Centre in Yaoundé was still not fully operational, and the Coordination Centre covering Togo, Benin, Niger and Nigeria had yet to receive staff, funding and equipment.
Finally, he said, there had been no more active Ebola cases in the region. The task at hand was now one of rehabilitating essential services, as the epidemic had dramatically unveiled the fragility of the region’s national health systems and highlighted the importance of effective governance.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 3:16 p.m.