Islamist attacks are spreading so fast in West Africa the region should consider bolstering response beyond current military efforts and donors should back such a move, the head of the United Nations said.
Groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State strengthened their foothold across the arid Sahel this year, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
The situation raised concerns the perennially under-funded regional G5 force, comprising troops from Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso, is unable to stop unrest fanning out from West Africa’s restive hinterland to coastal countries including regional economic powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana.
“We should be open to initiatives beyond the G5 Sahel,” Antonio Guterres told a news conference in Nairobi. “We are open to support any African initiative involving all countries of a region where the threat is spreading.”
The G5 force has been hobbled by delays and poor co-ordination since its founding in 2014, officials and diplomats say. In November last year, Guterres said international donors disbursed less than half the funds pledged for the force.
Armed militancy is not confined to West Africa and its spread is aided in many areas by poverty, corruption and state violence.
Eleven people were killed last week in an ambush in a gas-rich province of northern Mozambique, the latest execution-style attack in the area.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission Chairman, questioned the international community’s position on peacekeeping in Africa, with no mechanism to ensure consistent funding.
“The threat is real,” he said. “Today it is west and central Africa that is impacted. The international community has to mobilise in the same way there was mobilisation over Syria and Iraq.”