West African countries face daunting challenges including transnational organised crimes and growing terrorist activities, as well as the increasing threat from Boko Haram, while trying to consolidate democracy according to a top UN official.
Said Djinnit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for West Africa, said it was “essential” for West African countries to close ranks and establish effective strategic and operational co-operation mechanisms to prevent destabilisation of the whole Sahara/Sahel region.
“Of great concern is the potential for recruitment of unemployed youth by organised crime networks in the region.”
In the context of growing insecurity in the Sahel the situation in Nigeria remained one of “great concern”.
“Despite efforts by the Nigerian Government, the school girls abducted by the insurgent group Boko Haram from Chibok in April remain in captivity.
“While efforts to obtain their safe release are ongoing the level of violence against civilians in Nigeria continues to escalate, resulting in significant displacement in the north of the country.
“It is disheartening to note in the last two weeks at least 18 attacks attributed to Boko Haram have been conducted, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians and displacement of people. The Boko Haram crisis is now affecting security in the sub-region,” Djinnit said.
“With growing insecurity in the north-east of the country, coupled with increasing political tensions and divisions in the lead up to the 2015 general elections, Nigeria is at a crossroads. It is therefore critical, in my view, that UN Security Council members continue to support efforts and initiatives aimed at preserving stability in the country.
“All efforts should be made to address insurgency and insecurity in Nigeria, which has over the past few decades played a prominent role in the maintenance of regional and global peace and security. The present situation also underscores the paramount need for the Nigerian political class to forge a unified stand in confronting the persisting insecurity.”
Djinnit said the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA) which he heads, will continue working with the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and other stakeholders to prevent political differences from developing into violent crises.
UNOWA will also provide electoral assistance to five countries in the region that will go to the polls next year. They are Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger and Nigeria.