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Terrorism in the Sahel: on tour in West Africa, Antonio Guterres recalled the urgency of facing “a global threat”

Terrorism in the Sahel: on tour in West Africa, Antonio Guterres recalled the urgency of facing "a global threat"

The Sahelian crisis was the common thread of the recent visit of the Secretary General of the United Nations to West Africa. “As terrorist attacks continue to increase in the Sahel and spread to the Gulf of Guinea states, the international community must realize that this is no longer just a regional or African issue, but a global threat”, said Antonio Guterres. From April 30 to May 4, 2022, the UN official visited Senegal respectively – whose Head of State Macky Sall holds the current chairmanship of the African Union (AU) Niger and Nigeria.

Mahamadou Issoufou, the new “Mr. Sahel”

Welcoming in the African Union a “model in terms of regional cooperation”, Antonio Guterres says he spoke with Macky Sall “joint efforts against terrorism and violent extremism” in west Africa. Weakened by the Sahelian crisis, the region has been further destabilized by the coups d’état that occurred successively in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Guinea (September 2021) and Burkina Faso (January 2022).

In Dakar, the Senegalese capital, the Secretary-General of the United Nations recalled his attachment “to robust African peace and counter-terrorism operations implemented by the African Union and supported by the United Nations”, on the model of several ongoing operations in Africa, in particular in Mali. A country that has been the epicenter of Sahelian instability since 2012. Jihadist violence from its territory has spread to its neighbors in Burkina Faso to the south and Niger to the east.

The former President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, thus accepted at his request and that of the President of the African Union Commission Moussa Mahamat Faki “to conduct a joint AU-UN strategic assessment on security in the Sahel, focused on developing recommendations on how to strengthen the international response to the security crisis in the Sahel”reports UN News. This assessment”will be undertaken in consultation” with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the joint secretariat of the G5-Sahel.

Helping Niger facing multiple crises

In Niamey, Niger, where he arrived on May 2, Antonio Guterres called on the international community “(to get involved) thoroughly” to help the Nigerien army to fight the jihadist groups that strike the country, as well as several neighboring countries. He also called on the international community to step up its assistance as he concluded his visit to Niger.with the martyred populations of Ouallam (which hosts internally displaced persons and refugees, editor’s note)“, town in the Tillabéri region located in the area known as the Three Borders.

This area located between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali has been the scene since 2017 of the bloody actions of jihadist movements linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. In October 2020in the midst of a pandemic, the UN agencies announced that the needs in the region had reached “record levels due to rising violence, insecurity and (the) Covid-19 pandemic, creating one of the fastest growing humanitarian crises in the world.”

“Several extremist armed groups operate mainly in the regions of Tillabéri, Tahoua and Diffa, respectively in the north-west, south and south-east” from Niger, remind the United Nations. Besides, “in the Maradi region in the south, armed groups operating from Nigeria frequently cross the border to carry out raids”.

In addition to terrorist attacks, the country faces drought and the effects of climate change. “Niger cannot meet all these multiple challenges alone, the African Union, ECOWAS, the G5-Sahel are essential actors for peace, stability and development in the region”. insisted Antonio Guterres. However, he acknowledged that the G5-Sahel, which includes Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, “was weakened by the coups that took place” in neighboring countries.

In its fight against terrorism, Niger, which hosts “more than 250,000 refugees from neighboring countries” according to UNHCR, enjoys the support of several Western countries, including France and the United States. Which have military bases in Niamey and in the region of Agadez (north). On April 22, Nigerien MPs voted largely in favor of a text authorizing the deployment of new foreign forces in their country, particularly French ones.

Over two million displaced in Nigeria

Antonio Guterres has completed his West African journey in Nigeria. He visited in particular the State of Borno which “is one of the epicenters of violent extremism and terrorist activities in Nigeria and the Sahel region”. According to the UN, “Insecurity linked to armed groups, including the terrorist group Boko Haram, has disrupted livelihoods and led to the displacement of some 2.2 million people over the past 12 years”.

The jihadist insurgency, which began in 2009 in the northeast, “has caused more than 40,000 deaths”. At the end of March, more than 4,000 Nigerians who had fled the abuses of the jihadist groups Islamic State and Boko Haram returned home despite the insecurity and almost non-existent services in the region. At the end of his tour, Antonio Guterres greeted “resilience” of African populations.

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