WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, November 27, 2015
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 25, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Envoy Sellassie, for your briefing.
The United States welcomes your close engagement with regional leaders and the broader international community to assist the countries and the people of the Sahel region on their path toward achieving effective governance, security, development, and prosperity.
Mr. President, the horrific attacks last week in Bamako – which killed nearly 20 innocent civilians, including those assisting Mali in its efforts to provide basic services to its population – and yesterday’s attack on a MINUSMA convoy traveling near Timbuktu, as well as the ongoing threat posed by Boko Haram – especially in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon – remind us just how high the stakes are for the countries of the Sahel.
Mr. President, the creation of the Multinational Joint Task Force, with the participation of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and Benin, is the most recent example of the deepening commitment by African countries to counterterrorism.
African forces, with support from the United Nations and bilateral partners, also responded to the crisis in northern Mali in 2013 by working with the French to dislodge al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups that had established a safe haven there. Our work in Mali is far from finished, and the problems faced by Mali cannot be solved by military force alone. The success of the Mali peace process rests on the Malian parties committing to making hard choices for the collective security of all Malians. We welcome the steps of the parties in Mali that they have taken to uphold the ceasefire arrangements. However, we need to see more progress by the government on institutional reforms that will better enfranchise northern Malians and improve governance for all citizens and more progress by all the Malian parties to prepare for cantonment and joint security patrols to pave the way for a return of the reformed security forces to the north. Progress in these areas will enable Mali to, as President Obama said recently, “rid its country of terrorists and strengthen its democracy,” goals to which this Security Council is deeply committed.
I’d like to highlight a few areas in the region where I think we can do more.
First, we believe that enhanced focus on good governance by the countries of the region is essential. It is, appropriately, one of the pillars of the UN Sahel Strategy – inclusive and effective governance – and improvements here will serve as the foundation for stability across the region. The people of Mali and of other countries of the region have expressed a clear desire for more responsive government institutions, and for peaceful, democratic changes of power through inclusive, transparent, and free elections.
The recent events in Burkina Faso further demonstrate that legitimate, civilian-led government is the life-blood of any democracy and crucial to stability. When a faction of the military attempted in September to seize power from Burkina Faso’s transitional president, the population responded with a resounding “No!” Courageous civil society activists helped Burkina Faso to overcome its governance crisis and the people of Burkina Faso are expected to go to the polls for elections on Sunday. We look to Niger, which is set to hold elections in early 2016 amid serious security challenges at its borders, to continue to make progress toward democratic consolidation and political inclusion.
Second, we must work collectively to counter the underlying drivers of violent extremism in the Sahel. The United States welcomes the region’s efforts to create a new countering violent extremism youth network for the region, which we hope will enable the sharing of best practices. We welcome the fact that the leaders in the Sahel are working to deepen cooperation amongst themselves, including through the Group of Five for the Sahel and the Nouakchott Process, by coming to an agreement on a shared vision of the region’s transnational threats and the efforts needed to address them.
The United States will continue to work with our partners in the Sahel and Maghreb region to build their counterterrorism capacity so that they can address the underlying drivers of radicalization and build the long-term law enforcement architecture that will preserve the many gains they’ve already made. In this vein, we encourage the leaders of the Sahel region to adopt a whole-of-government approach to countering violent extremism, which reflects a common understanding that terrorists will not be defeated by the force of arms alone.
Third and finally, we encourage further progress by the United Nations system and its partners towards effective implementation of the UN Sahel Strategy.
We welcome the Secretary-General’s forthcoming strategic review of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel and to considering its recommendations on ways to improve the UN system’s capacity to deliver assistance effectively to the Sahel region. We encourage you, Special Envoy Sellassie, to continue to pursue your good offices with the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for West and Central Africa as you all work to enhance regional cooperation and strengthen international assistance to the region.
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