Sierra Leone Statement on the The United Nations Office For West Africa And The Sahel (Unowas)

Mr. President,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the members of the A3+1 namely, Algeria, Guyana, Mozambique, and my own country Sierra Leone.

We welcome the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of UNOWAS and avail ourselves of this opportunity to commend the efforts of Mr. Leonardo Santos Simão in actively engaging with the countries of the region. We encourage and support his further efforts in the implementation of the UNOWAS mandate and sincerely thank him for his briefing to the Council today.

Mr. President,

Since the last briefing to this Council and the renewal of the mandate of UNOWAS, we have seen the consolidation of democracy in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, as well as the positive developments regarding transitional justice in The Gambia. We particularly wish to highlight the progress on women’s representation and participation in the political space in Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, with both countries implementing and exceeding the quotas in their affirmative action policies and legislations.

We underscore the need for countries undergoing political transition to adhere to their electoral timelines and ensure democratic consolidation and good governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights, gender equality, sustainable development, and the inclusion of civil society in democratic processes. The A3+ therefore welcomes the relevant and fruitful discussions on the issue of unconstitutional changes during the African Union (AU) High Level Seminar on the promotion of peace and Security in Africa, held on 17-18 December 2023, in Oran (Algeria).

We note that the referendum held in Mali in June 2023 set out a pathway for further efforts based on an inclusive process. We reiterate the centrality of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali resulting from the Algiers Process and strongly urge all Signatory Parties to resume dialogue and commit to the implementation of the Agreement. We also call on Mali to remain engaged with regional Organizations, the ECOWAS and the AU, in realizing Peace and stability in Mali.

The A3+ welcome the revitalization of the Nouakchott Process and reaffirms the importance of coordination of all efforts at regional and sub-regional levels especially in the fight against terrorism and organized crime in the Sahel and other regions. In this regard, the A3+ would like to underscore the roles of the African Center for the Study and Research on Terrorism (CAERT), the Committee of Intelligence and Security Service of Africa (CISSA), the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL), the Joint Operational Staff Committee (CEMOC) and the Accra Initiative.

We commend the SRSG for his efforts at alleviating pre- and post-election tensions in Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively and call for the implementation of all agreed outcome documents. We are also encouraged by the individual visits of the SRSG to two of the A3+ countries, namely Sierra Leone and Algeria, to address and develop solutions for sustainable consultative dialogue and pathways to development.

The A3 + however, continues to express grave concern over the security situation in the region, especially in the Sahelian countries, where the occupation of territories by terrorist and criminal armed groups leads to an increase in displacement and a deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

We further note with concern the growing disengagement with ECOWAS and the security vacuum created by MINUSMA’s withdrawal. We also take note of the dissolution of the G5 Sahel. While taking this opportunity to strongly reaffirm our respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries of the region, we call on those countries to engage in dialogue with ECOWAS in a bid to create inclusive solutions to the issues that affect the region.

Against this background, we would like to make the following key observations:

First, on the political situation, we regret the rising political tensions caused by the shift from democratic to unconstitutional change of government in some countries in the region. We encourage all countries to fulfill their obligations under regional arrangements such as the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and the AU Declaration on the Framework for the OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government (Lomé Declaration) premised on a participatory approach to governance, including youth, women and all relevant stakeholders.

We welcome the commitment of the SRSG and his team, in close collaboration with regional stakeholders to implement the decisions in the Communique of the Sixty-Fourth Ordinary meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held on 10 December 2023.

We reiterate the need for the current Transitional Authorities to restore constitutional order while reiterating the need for continuous engagement between the UN, the AU, and ECOWAS to ensure required support towards enhancing governance and rule of law in these countries).

Secondly, on the security situation, we regret the growing incidence of terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel. The spread of terrorism from the Sahel to coastal states, remains a major concern. We continue to unwaveringly condemn attacks by terrorist and violent extremist groups against civilian and security personnel in the region and pay tribute to those who lost their lives in these attacks. With the closure of MINUSMA, we urge coordinated action with the neighbouring countries to minimize any further adverse security impact on Mali and the region. The role of the sub-regional, regional, UNOWAS and other UN agencies therefore becomes even more critical in this context.

We note with concern the shrinking of civic and political space in the region and urge the scaling up of preventive mechanisms and diplomatic mediative measures to address this problem.

We are also seriously concerned about the reported upward trajectory of maritime insecurity incidents in the Gulf of Guinea following years of decreased instances of piracy and armed robbery at sea. In this regard, we urge cooperation and collaboration in the implementation of the frameworks to address maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, including the Council’s resolution 2634 (2022).

Thirdly, we regret the dire humanitarian situation in the region particularly in the central Sahel areas.  The A3 Plus calls for the attention of the international community on the situation which, according to OCHA has left over 26.1 million people in the Sahel region in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023, a 24 per cent increase from the previous year. We are deeply concerned that reportedly 5.3 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are food insecure as of December 2023, while 1.8 million children in the region suffer from acute malnutrition.

Further, school closures caused by insecurity have left children exposed to the risks of sexual exploitation and recruitment by terrorist and criminal armed groups.  We continue to call for donor partners to prioritize the implementation of humanitarian response plans for countries in West Africa and the Sahel by helping to meet the US$3.5 billion target required to tackle the increasing humanitarian needs, of which only 36 per cent has been received as of December 2023.

Mr. President,

On climate change and its adverse implications for the region, we reiterate the firm belief that the prevailing crises in the region are aggravated by this phenomenon, which has led to, among others, displacements and competition over declining natural resources, for example between farmers and herders. We welcome progress made in the implementation the Dakar Call to Action on Climate Change, Peace and Security, which calls for the United Nations system, including UNOWAS, UN Country Teams, the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) and ECOWAS to continue working with regional and national partners to support regional governments in this field. 

Finally, we urge for a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes and takes equal cognizance of the socioeconomic challenges in West Africa and the Sahel. This requires support to address the governance and development deficits and commitment to building a national consensus that will ensure meaningful participation by women and youth in decision-making and governance processes.

To conclude, the A3 Plus is prepared to engage with fellow Council members towards the issuance of a Presidential Statement on UNOWAS, given the significant developments in the sub-region and the importance of the Council adopting a consensus approach to the relevant issues as well as in order to demonstrate full support to the mandate of the SRSG.

I thank you.

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