Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the G5 Sahel Joint Force (via VTC)

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 16, 2020


Thank you, Madam President. Let me join others in thanking our briefers for their informative briefings this morning. Just like with many of my counterparts on the Council, the security situation in the Sahel is a security concern to the United States as well.

I was also struck by the theme that ran through the briefers comments about the increasing efforts of the Sahelian government to coordinate their efforts to improve security, democratic governance, and development in the region. The United States certainly agrees that coordination by the Sahelian government is crucial to improving the stability and the prosperity of the region, and we were pleased to hear that that is happening.

The United States agrees that the G5 Joint Force and its civilian component are key to addressing some of the root causes of the conflict. The United States, as with others, as we’ve heard, remains committed to bilaterally supporting the Joint Force with equipment, training, and supplies, and advisors. We, of course, encourage other partners to honor both their pledges to the Joint Force and to consider additional bilateral support to individual G5 countries. Since it was mentioned in the remarks of others, let me just reiterate that it remains the U.S. position that UN assessed contributions are not a viable source of funding.

In September, the United States announced $152 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of the people in the G5 Sahel countries. This is in addition to our existing regional social services, law enforcement, and security assistance programs – and, as well, in addition to our $111 million direct contribution to the Joint Force.

In the near term, we expect to see the Joint Force fully leverage MINUSMA’s support mechanism, enhanced last June to better support the G5 Joint Force. We believe there is no time to lose. MINUSMA is only part of the solution and it is unlikely, in our view, to continue indefinitely at its current level.

As we heard, the G5 Joint Force has had some successes recently, with Operations Sama I and II, and the Force taking over a MINUSMA temporary command post. However, I think we all know progress can unravel quickly when state defense and security forces commit their own acts of violence against the very people they are supposed to protect. As we all know, such violations reinforce narratives by terrorist, they drive recruitment, as others have said.

So, we expect a full investigation of five alleged cases of serious human rights violations by the G5 battalion operating in northern Burkina Faso, after MINUSMA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights shared a list of these possible violations with the Joint Force in June. We agree with others that accountability is essential.

In addition, at the national level, we are calling on the transitional government of Mali and the governments of Niger and Burkina Faso to conduct thorough and transparent investigations, and hold accountable anyone responsible for alleged crimes, including the reported 50 arbitrary executions Burkina Faso forces allegedly carried out in May.

As the region seeks to improve governance, so crucial to restoring stability, we also call on the governments of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad to promote a free and fair electoral process in their upcoming elections.

Finally, Madam President, let me end by saying, we all know Mali is critical to fighting violent extremism in the region, which is why we were pleased to hear from the ambassador of that country. But we are alarmed by the October release of approximately 200 prisoners in Mali, most of whom, I believe, were held on terrorism charges. So, we are urging Mali’s transitional government and other actors to swiftly implement the principles of the Algiers Agreement. It remains relevant and its provisions will have a stabilizing effect in northern Mali and the entire Sahel. We also call on the transitional government in Mali to hold free and fair elections within 18 months and to uphold its commitments, on everything from fighting corruption to enacting electoral and governance reforms. The Malian people deserve that and nothing less.

Thank you, Madam President.