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

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
July 25, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Special Representative Simão and Mr. Touray, for your very informative briefings.

The United States remains gravely concerned by democratic backsliding across the region and strongly supports UNOWAS and its instrumental role in preventing and mitigating conflict, addressing election-related crises, and promoting inclusive dialogue processes in the region.

We recognize the continued efforts of UNOWAS to help promote and sustain democratic processes and advise transitional governments in West Africa and the Sahel, particularly Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Though we are concerned by the lack of transparency in the tabulation process for the June 24, 2023 general elections in Sierra Leone, and irregularities in the election results announced by the Electoral Commission, we applaud the people of Sierra Leone for participating in the elections, which play a vital role in any democracy.

We reiterate our support to transition processes in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea and continue to call for a return to democratic governance. We support the UN and ECOWAS’ leadership in holding transition governments accountable to their stated timelines to return to constitutional order, and for promoting stability in the region.

Turning from democratic transitions to humanitarian needs, we want to underscore the urgency of the arrival of the new UN resident coordinator in Burkina Faso, and share the concerns expressed by the UN on the Burkinabe transitional government’s actions that led to the departure of the previous UN resident coordinator. The UN resident coordinator leads the UN’s work to support development efforts and is vital to leading the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance for the Burkinabe people.

Given the situation in the region, accountability is especially important. We reiterate our call on the transition government in Mali to pursue an independent, impartial, efficient, comprehensive, and transparent investigation to hold accountable those responsible for the civilian killings in Moura, Mali, consistent with the recommendation in the relevant May 2023 UN human rights report.

The UNOWAS mandate is all the more important in light of the Mali transition government’s decision to end MINUSMA. It is critical that the transition government of Mali fully cooperate with the UN to ensure a safe and orderly withdrawal of MINUSMA. This includes fully respecting the Status of Forces Agreement until the final MINUSMA element departs, beyond December 31. Once the MINUSMA transition plan is finalized, we would welcome a serious discussion in the appropriate forum on what additional resources for UNOWAS might be needed to ensure continued support for UNOWAS and its increased activities.

We remain deeply concerned by the spread of instability in coastal West Africa, both from national political dynamics and the proximity of violent extremism in the Sahel. The growing threats have cost thousands of lives and contributed to displacement across the region.

We cannot ignore the fact that the Wagner Group is committing human rights abuses and endangering the safety and security of civilians, peacekeepers, and UN personnel. They are obstructing the work of UN peacekeepers and not only failing to address the immediate violent extremist threat, but contributing to the likelihood it will grow.

Finally, the United States calls on members of the Security Council to reinvigorate our collective action and engage with African partners in addressing the problems that cross borders. We applaud the UN, UNOWAS, the AU, and ECOWAS’ efforts to support the region, and hope to soon see a Council Presidential Statement reaffirm that commitment.

Thank you, Mr. President.