Special representative of the UN secretary-general in West Africa, Leonardo Simão, says the region has experienced contrasting challenges over the past six months.
According to him, this reveals a stark contrast in the region’s journey toward democracy.
Briefing the Security Council on Thursday at the UN headquarters in New York, Mr Simão said while some nations had made significant democratic strides, others had been subjected to military takeovers.
He noted that this had posed wider threats to regional stability.
Mr Simão said the Liberian presidential election and its peaceful transfer of power was a decisive political moment for a country where the memories of the civil war were still very present.
He also expressed hope of replicating the same in upcoming elections in Senegal and Ghana.
“However, post-election events in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau have seen infighting within security services and highlighted the need to shore up the credibility of institutions and processes of democratic governance in a sustained manner,” he added.
Simão warned of overlapping conflicts in Mali, where the UN’s peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSMA), completed its drawdown on December 31, 2023, marking the culmination of a decade-long effort to support the West African nation.
“As MINUSMA’s mandate ended, uncertainty looms over elections and Mali’s political transition under the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. Insecurity remains prevalent in large parts of the country, including attacks on military camps and civilians, with swathes of the country currently blockaded by terrorist groups and rising humanitarian needs,” the UN envoy said.
Deployed in 2013 following a violent insurrection by separatist rebels and a subsequent military coup, MINUSMA played a crucial role in addressing Mali’s multifaceted challenges.
Despite suffering over 300 fatalities among its troops and personnel, the mission helped blunt extremist violence and rampant insecurity.
“As we move into a post-MINUSMA Mali, we need to take stock of that decade-long experience and draw lessons required to inform a fast-approaching future.
“As a legacy of MINUSMA, the UN will continue to maintain a key role in support of the Malian people. We remain committed to deliver,” Mr Simão said.
Mr Simão, who also heads the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), stressed that the negative impact of climate change in the Sahel region could not be overstated.
He noted that this was especially so due to the fragile ecosystems bearing the brunt of prolonged droughts and unpredictable rainy seasons.
The UN envoy noted that extreme weather events were overlapping with the spread of insecurity in the region, exacerbating inter-communal conflicts, increasing social tension, and adding to displacement.
“As wells dry out and lands fall shallow – while floods have devastated other areas – it is often women who are bearing the brunt of the vagaries of climate and conflict. It is imperative that women take their place at the instances of decision-making,” he said.
Mr Simão also said his Office was actively engaged in helping build stability, peace, and democratic governance in the region, bringing together key stakeholders and helping them collectively overcome adversities.
“In this multifaceted landscape, UNOWAS remains steadfast in fostering dialogue and advocating for democratic principles despite the challenges that loom large on the regional horizon,” he added.
Source: Peoples Gazette
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