Serious concerns over Sahel, require ‘urgent action’: Senior UN Africa official

OCHA/Giles Clarke A man on a motorcycle drives by a burnt-out car in the northern region of Burkina Faso where security incidences continue to rise. (June 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The situation in Africa’s Sahel region continues to be “of serious concern and urgent action is needed”, a high-level United Nations official told the Security Council on Wednesday, attributing a rising number of attacks to terrorist armed groups.

Over the past six months, security in many parts of the vast area that runs west to east across the continent from Senegal to Sudan, “has continued to deteriorate”, said Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, noting a surge in militancy against security forces and civilians and of “violent incidents pitting members of various communities against one another”.

Drawing attention to a death toll that continues to mount, she stated that in 2019 the number of security incidences had risen three-fold in the region, as compared to previous years, specifically in Burkina Faso and Niger.

And over the past six months, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger had endured some of the deadliest attacks against their militaries – with some major incidents occurring just this month.

Moreover, terrorist violence has spread to the coast and along the Sahel-Sahara strip, which brings together the operational zones of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S) and the multi-national force in the Lake Chad Basin.

The encouraged the G5 Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to “overcome the many challenges they face in operationalizing the Joint Force”.

The FC-G5S was established in 2017 to combat terrorist and criminal groups.

The UN official maintained that the Joint Force remains “a critical part” of regional and international security responses to address not only extremist armed groups in the Sahel but also other cross-border challenges, including human trafficking, migration and displacement.

Securing the Sahel

At the same time, Ms. Keita echoed the Secretary-General’s most recent report in pointing out current support for FC-G5S, is not enough.

“The Joint Force alone cannot secure the Sahel” she underscored. “More needs to be done to prevent further deterioration”.

She spoke of other international and regional initiatives to respond to the expanding threat of armed terrorists as “encouraging”, mentioning a new partnership by Germany and France to reinforce troops and police forces from the G5 Sahel countries at the national level.

And the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also pledged one billion dollars to fight the scourge over the next five years.

“In parallel it will remain critical to continue supporting the efforts by the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel as well as to mobilize external partners to that end”, she concluded.

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