UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community Wednesday to support West Africa’s fight against violent extremism, saying the region alone could not be expected to contain the spread of jihadism.
A raging Islamist insurgency shows no signs of weakening in the Sahel, where armed groups have gained ground and displaced millions across a large swathe of the troubled region.
Guterres said the problem was spreading beyond the region and the G-5 Sahel force — a joint military effort by Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to battle the jihadists — needed greater outside backing than it was getting.
“Unfortunately we are seeing that terrorism is progressing,” Guterres told reporters at the opening of a two-day conference in the Kenyan capital on the fight against extremism in Africa.
“It started in Mali, it went to Burkina Faso, Niger and now, when we speak with the presidents of Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Ivory Coast, they say that terrorism is coming to their borders.”
The UN chief said it was essential African forces had “the adequate mandate and the adequate financing” to do their job, and called for joint efforts to fight extremism beyond the G-5 Sahel.
“I think now it would be important that we are open to support any African initiative involving all the countries of the region, in which the threat that is spreading,” he said.
The presidents of West Africa “believe that we need a much more robust and collective response, that the international community needs to find the mechanisms to fully support it.”
The G-5 Sahel leaders have repeatedly called for a mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter — measures which could authorise the use of sanctions or military intervention in situations where peace and security is threatened.
Their request has been denied, something Guterres said he regretted. Agreed funding for the G-5 Sahel force has been slow to arrive.
African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed “difficulty understanding the international community’s procrastination” in financing security operations on the continent.
“It is an incomprehensible situation, the phenomenon is deepening,” he said.
As in Syria and Iraq “the entire international community must be mobilised to deal with a phenomenon that has the same characteristics.”
The Nairobi meeting is a regional version of the first ever global conference on terrorism, organised by the United Nations in 2018 in New York.