Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on West Africa and the Sahel

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 10, 2022


Thank you, Madam President. My thanks, as well, to Special Representative Annadif and Executive Director Waly, for their briefings. A special thanks to Ms. Yougbare for her compelling and powerful presentation and the recommendations that she and the coalition made last year, and that she underscored today, certainly will influence the U.S. government’s approach to the challenges we face in the Sahel. So, I thank her for that.

Madam President, the United States reiterates our appreciation for UNOWAS’s continued efforts to advance the Security Council’s aim of a stable and secure Sahel region, which UNOWAS does by working to deepen democratic processes, bolster ECOWAS and other subregional institutions, and engage governments and civil society actors.

As we heard from other briefers today, the United States also welcomes more civil society participation in political life of the Sahel region. So, the United States continues to encourage civic engagement in the many upcoming elections across the region, consistent with necessary public health precautions. We join others in welcoming last year’s free, fair, and transparent election processes that took place in Cabo Verde and the Gambia. The United States applauds the people of both countries for making their voices heard through the ballot box as both countries move toward peaceful democratic consolidation.

And like others, we are deeply concerned by the lack of progress in Mali. We urge the Malian transitional authorities to return to democracy in a timely fashion. We note the decision of ECOWAS yesterday regarding additional sanctions, which we are reviewing, and look forward to further discussion in the Council this week.

We condemn the September 2021 coup in Guinea; we urge the transition government there to rapidly hold elections and return the country to constitutional, civilian-led democracy.

The United States joins others in being gravely concerned about the terrorist violence against civilians and security forces that is occurring across the Sahel, and which is expanding into coastal West Africa. This includes instability exacerbated by ongoing conflicts and the increased flow of arms and mercenary groups that threaten the peace and stability of the region. We support the efforts of the region to counter terrorism and promote stability through holistic strategies that address what are the underlying drivers of conflict.

Governments undermine their own effectiveness and credibility when state officials, particularly the security forces that are charged with protecting their own populations, engage in human rights violations. We urge all parties to armed conflict to grant greater access for humanitarian aid organizations and to respect the applicable international law obligations, including those under international humanitarian law.

Madam President, the United States continues to support the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and regional initiatives in various Sahel countries to strengthen peace and security infrastructure that can prevent violence on national and community levels. The inclusion of civil society organizations promotes the development of community-led solutions to counter attacks and violence proactively. UNOWAS’s work with governments in West Africa and the Sahel region to develop a civilian-led joint project to address local conflicts is critical – we believe – to the stability of the region.

We applaud the partnership among UNOWAS, the International Organization for Migration’s West and Central Africa Office, the Regional Collaboration Centre of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Environment Program to launch a regional working group to address the adverse effects of climate change on security and development in West Africa.

Finally, Madam President, the United States also continues to work with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which remains engaged in West Africa and the Sahel. The Coalition welcomed Burkina Faso as its 84th member in late 2021. The Coalition also announced the formation of the Africa Focus Group last month, which seeks to enhance African Coalition members’ civilian-led counterterrorism capabilities that can counter ISIS-affiliated and other transnational terrorist groups. The Africa Focus Group has an initial prioritization on border security, battlefield evidence protection, and biometric enrollment of terrorist suspects.

Thank you, Mr. President.