posted on FRI 13 JAN 2012 12:46 PM
UN Office for West Africa Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (16 January), the Council is scheduled to be briefed and have consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of UNOWA from 1 July to 31st December 2011 (S/2011/811, 30 December). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNOWA, Said Djinnit, will brief. It seems that Togo, the Council lead on UNOWA, is working on a press statement on the situation in West Africa, which is likely to include the escalating bomb attacks in Nigeria, the uncertain and potentially volatile situation in Guinea-Bissau, and the series of elections scheduled in the region in 2012.

While noting a number of positive developments in West Africa, the UNOWA report highlights some new threats to security in the region. They include the increasing reach and sophistication of Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Nigeria, whose bombing campaigns have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, including UN personnel. The report notes concerns about a ‘possible linkage’ between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has been responsible for a series of kidnappings of foreign nationals.

The report also covers the growing insecurity in the Sahel region of West Africa, in particular Mali, Mauritania and Niger, due to the return of armed elements from Libya. The report notes concerns that these elements “could stir up pre-existing political and security tensions” in these countries. The report also highlights another fallout of the Libya crisis, mainly the proliferation of a range of weapons, warning that they may fall into the hands of criminal and terrorist groups.

It is possible that the situation in Guinea-Bissau following the death of its president on 9 January may be of interest to Council members. Before his death, there were reports of an attempted coup in the country, and the head of police was executed. Guinea-Bissau was covered during the DPA “horizon scanning” briefing on Tuesday, 10 January. However, some members may have further questions related to the tensions over the succession and presidential elections which according to the constitution have to be held within 90 days of the president’s passing away.

It is likely that Council members may also be keen to hear about other elections scheduled in West Africa in 2012: Senegal (26 February), Mali (22 July), and Sierra Leone (legislative elections in August and presidential in November). It seems there are some concerns about the processes leading up to these elections, and it appears that the Council press statement is likely to call for calm and respect for democratic principles.