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Mali having far-reaching impact on West Africa - UN

26 January 2013, 07:34

Bamako, Mali - The crisis in Mali is having far-reaching impact on the rest of West Africa and the Sahel, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, said.

Djinnit made the statement while briefing the UN Security Council on Friday, adding that the situation in the country illustrated the fragile nature of the region.

“As developments unfold in Mali, the risks for infiltration and destabilisation are real in some of the countries bordering Mali as illustrated by the efforts of neighbouring countries to tighten security along the borders,” the envoy said.

He said that the situation in Mali had heightened the overall terrorism threat in the sub-region.

He urged the international community to remain mindful of the limitations faced by Mali’s neighbours and enhance support in the areas of border control and counter-terrorism.
Djinnit stressed that the international community must simultaneously support both the political and military tracks to ensure a successful transition process.

“It will also be necessary to eventually pursue a broad reconciliation process that strengthens the foundations for national cohesion in Mali.

“The recently deployed UN team in Bamako will be fully available to support this process and I will personally continue to support these efforts,” Djinnit said.

He said that beyond the crises in Mali and the Sahel, the region had continued to be threatened by piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, disrupting maritime trade roots and economic progress in the region.
Djinnit said tensions along the borders between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, and transnational organised crime in Guinea-Bissau and Mali were also a source of concern.

“The situation in West Africa remains at a crossroads. On the one hand, the leaders of the region have made significant progress toward the promotion and consolidation of peace and are taking decisive efforts to address the pressing challenges to peace and security in the region,’’ he said.

The envoy said that the situation in Mali and in the Sahel, combined with other cross-cutting threats in the region, including drug trafficking and piracy, posed a threat to regional peace.

"They have the potential to undermine security in West Africa, while the root causes of instability in the region are yet to be fully addressed,” he added.
He called for continued attention and support of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to ECOWAS leaders and countries to ensure lasting peace, stability and development.

Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali in January 2012, after which radical Islamists seized control of the region.
The renewed clashes in the north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d'etat in March had uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The latest estimate by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states that more than 150 000 people have fled to neighbouring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, while an additional 230 000 have been internally displaced.

The conflict has strained resources and worsened the humanitarian situation in the Sahel, which was already precarious due to years of drought, piracy, and transnational organised crime.

The situation prompted the Malian Government to request military assistance from France to stop the progression of extremist groups.
The UN Security Council had in December 2012 auhorised the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali, known as AFISMA, for an initial period of one year, to assist the authorities in recovering rebel-held regions in the north and restoring the unity of the country.


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