UN Official Pleads for more Support to G-5 Sahel

A UN Official has pleaded for more support to G-5 Sahel, saying the five-year-old force working to stabilize Africa’s Sahel has shown great potential, but needs more support from the international community to reach full operational capacity.

Addressing the UN Security Council Thursday, Bintou Keita, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, called for enhanced political and economic solutions to help tackle the strife-torn region’s myriad challenges.

Dubbed the ‘G-5 Sahel’ after the group of countries it musters, namely Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the Joint Force, proposed by the African Union and backed by the UN Security Council, aims to bolster coordination to “neutralize” armed groups in the region and strengthen Cooperation on economic development and security.

“The G-5 Sahel has taken additional steps to operationalize the joint force following the devastating terrorist attack on its headquarters in June,” Bintou Keita said, adding she was particularly encouraged by the resumption of joint force operations in January.

The group has carried out four operations since the beginning of the year, she said stressing the need to continue this momentum.

“I call on the G-5 Sahel Member States to urgently accelerate the full operationalization of the joint force so that it can finally reach its full operational capability,” she said during a briefing alongside the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alpha Barry, the High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, and European Union Special Representative for the Sahel, Angel Losada Fernandez.

The situation in Mali and in the wider Sahel remained extremely worrying, said Ms. Keïta, cautioning that while the region faces serious problems – from growing insecurity to the spread of violent extremism across borders – the solution to many of the Sahel’s challenges such as the impact of climate change and drugs and people-smuggling, cannot be solely military.

She said that effective G-5 Sahel operations “will send a strong signal to terrorist groups: their encroachment on the life of the population will no longer be tolerated and will be rejected by the collective determination of the Member States of the region.”

But at the same time, Ms. Keïta said, “a security-driven approach alone will not be sufficient to combat violence in the region in a sustainable manner. It must go hand-in-hand with our collective and coordinated efforts and a broader strategy encompassing poverty reduction, good governance, development and humanitarian assistance and security interventions.”

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