Sahel nations need more support to fight growing extremism, UN chief says
AU's Moussa Faki Mahamat says the international community must mobilise as it did over Syria and Iraq to combat violent extremism
Nairobi — UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged the international community on Wednesday to support West Africa’s fight against violent extremism, saying the region alone could not be expected to contain the spread of jihadism.
A raging Islamist insurgency shows no signs of weakening in the Sahel, where armed groups have gained ground and displaced millions across a large swathe of the troubled region.
Guterres said the problem was spreading beyond the region and the G-5 Sahel force — a joint military effort by Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to battle the jihadists — needed greater outside backing than it was getting.
“Unfortunately we are seeing that terrorism is progressing,” Guterres told reporters at the opening of a two-day conference in the Kenyan capital on the fight against extremism in Africa.
“It started in Mali, it went to Burkina Faso, Niger and now, when we speak with the presidents of Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Ivory Coast, they say that terrorism is coming to their borders.”
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The UN chief said it was essential African forces had “the adequate mandate and the adequate financing” to do their job, and called for joint efforts to fight extremism beyond the G5 Sahel.
“I think now it would be important that we are open to support any African initiative involving all the countries of the region, in which the threat that is spreading,” he said.
The presidents of West Africa “believe that we need a much more robust and collective response, that the international community needs to find the mechanisms to fully support it”.
The G5 Sahel leaders have repeatedly called for a mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter — measures which could authorise the use of sanctions or military intervention in situations where peace and security is threatened.
Their request has been denied, something Guterres said he regretted. Funding agreed to for the G5 Sahel force has also been slow to arrive.
African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed “difficulty understanding the international community’s procrastination” in financing security operations on the continent.
“It is an incomprehensible situation, the phenomenon is deepening,” he said.
“The threat is real,” he said. “Today it is all of West and Central Africa that is impacted. The international community has to mobilise in the same way that there was a mobilisation over Syria and Iraq.”
The Nairobi meeting is a regional version of the first ever global conference on terrorism, organised by the UN in 2018 in New York.