Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in West Africa and the Sahel (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 9, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, Jürgen it’s good to see you. And Special Representative Chambas, it’s always good to hear from you and the work that you are doing. West Africa, as colleagues have already noted today, faces a number of challenges, but the new threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own negative political and economic effects, and we welcome your briefing Mr. Chambas today on how the impact of the crisis is evolving. And Ms. Oumarou Ibrahim, thank you very much for your passionate description of the challenges facing your country and the region as a whole.

With growing instability and the COVID crisis, 2020 has proven and is showing to be a critical year for the future of West Africa and the Sahel. West Africa will see five presidential elections from October to December, including in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger. We look to UNOWAS to play a constructive role in encouraging those elections to be free, fair, and transparent.

Countries in West Africa and the Sahel are also grappling with significant threats to peace, security, and stability due to the confluence of internal political tensions, the COVID-19 pandemic, violence by armed groups, and a worsening food security and humanitarian situation.

The United States has long engaged with countries in the region to strengthen health systems to respond to this type of disease outbreak. And our steadfast support will continue. The Trump administration has allocated more than $12 billion to benefit the global response to COVID-19, including vaccine and therapeutics development, preparedness efforts, and humanitarian assistance. This is in addition to more than $170 billion in U.S. investments in global health and humanitarian assistance throughout the last decade.

We are concerned though about increasing instability across the Sahel and specifically in parts of Nigeria. We strongly condemn the horrific violence – from both terrorists and criminal groups – that has taken so many lives. We support the efforts of the countries involved to counter violent extremist groups and continue to stress the need to protect civilians and instill confidence of the citizens in regional security forces and governments.

States undermine their own credibility when authorities, especially security forces, violate or abuse human rights. We call on regional governments to strengthen state institutions and provide good governance to their citizens to improve the stability in the Sahel.

Special Representative Chambas, we also share your concern about violence spreading further across the region. The United States is taking policy and programmatic steps to address violence emanating from the Sahel into Coastal West Africa, especially since the June 10 attack in northern Cote d’Ivoire and the 2019 kidnapping for ransom in northern Benin.

In Mali, we are monitoring the recent demonstrations where protestors are calling for President Keita’s resignation. We call on all actors to engage in dialogue and restraint and reaffirm the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including for the purposes of peaceful protest.

We support the ECOWAS high-level delegation, sent to find a sustainable solution to the unrest, including concerns over National Assembly seats where the initial outcome was overturned by the Constitutional Court. We continue to oppose any efforts for extra-constitutional change of government in Mali.

We further trust that Council members will join us in urging the signatory parties of the Algiers Accord to meet the implementation benchmarks in the recently-renewed MINUSMA mandate. This would substantially bolster efforts to stabilize Mali and the broader Sahel.

Thank you very much.