Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWA), praising the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) involved in the crisis in Mali and Guinea and expressed its support for all efforts to restore constitutional order as soon as possible.
Mr Mahamat Saleh believes progress continues in many areas in West Africa and the Sahel, but warns that the subregion “is struggling with insecurity that could reverse hard-won progress.”
The Special Representative shared some developments with Council members, such as the status of border negotiations between Cameroon and Nigeria, and the elections in the Gambia and Cape Verde.
For the Special Representative, “these examples confirm the appeal of democracy because The most reliable vehicle to shape the future of your community. “
Despite these political advances, Mr Saleh believes that The security environment has become more worrisome.
In Burkina Faso, for example, terrorist groups carry out “continuous” attacks; in Mali and Niger, large-scale attacks against military and civilian targets continue.
In Nigeria, the surge in crime among farmers and pastoralists has coincided with extreme violence in the northeast; other incidents, albeit modest, have occurred in northern Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo.
For Mr Mahamat Saleh, these events showed that “The threat of terrorist acts spreading from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea countries has become a reality. ”
One of the main consequences of the security situation is a multifaceted humanitarian crisis, rising food prices and increasing poverty.
Currently, more than 38 million people are at risk of food shortages by the next low season, a 23 percent increase from last year.
Growing insecurity has also led to the displacement of large numbers of people.
West African refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and stateless persons surpassed 8 million in November 2021 4.1 million in G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania).
For Mr Saleh, the main result of all these challenges is “millions of children growing up in difficult conditions, traumatized, malnourished, poorly cared for and uneducated.”
Director-General of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Fathi Waly also briefed Council members.
She said the Gulf of Guinea remained a priority, with incidents off the coast of West Africa accounting for the majority of maritime kidnappings for ransom worldwide.
a new one learn A study by maritime security research group Stable Seas in collaboration with UNODC estimates that piracy and armed robbery at sea cost the Gulf of Guinea countries $1.94 billion annually.
Port dues and import duties lost annually due to reduced shipping activity are estimated at $1.4 billion.
“These billions represent lost potential and money that could have been invested in legitimate economies and developing coastal communities, which are needed now more than ever. Coronavirus disease crisis,” Ms Valley said.
Across the region, organized crime fueled by corruption also perpetuates instability, violence and poverty.
“Lack of opportunity and frustration drives more young people into piracy and crime, and makes them more receptive to radicalized narratives”, the head of UNODC warned.
Human and Drug Trafficking
These desperate conditions also leave more people vulnerable to human trafficking.
according to UNODC global report on trafficking in persons 2020, of the registered victims of trafficking in West and Central Africa, 59% were children and 27% were women.
As the region continues to be heavily impacted by illicit tramadol imports, the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids and the rise in substance use disorders are compromising health and public safety.
At the same time, Ms Waly informed that West Africa has become a manufacturer of methamphetamine, mainly for East and South-East Asian markets.
Cocaine trafficking is posing a greater security threat, and West Africa is a major transit area for transshipment of goods to Western and Central Europe, as well as for cannabis resin trafficking.
“The value of these illicit flows exceeds the national budgets of some transit countries, which is very volatile in this complex security situation,” Ms Valli said.
More sanctions on Mali
Also on Monday, the ECOWAS agency of heads of state and government decided to maintain sanctions already imposed on Mali and the transitional military authorities that seized power in a coup last May, and to take additional measures.
The ECOWAS leader noted that the military authorities have failed to abide by the agreement to hold presidential elections by 27 February this year, a departure from the agreement reached in September 2020.
The Authority said in a statement, “Deeply regrets the apparent and blatant lack of political will of the transitional authorities“.
It also said the new calendar, submitted on January 8, which set the transition period at a total of five and a half years, was “totally unacceptable”.
“This calendar simply means that an illegal military transitional government will hold the people of Mali hostage for the next five years“, the statement said.
Among the additional sanctions, the Authority decided to close the land and air borders between the ECOWAS countries and Mali and to suspend all commercial and financial transactions, with the exception of food and medicines, medical supplies and equipment, and petroleum products and electricity.