Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at UNSC briefing on the activities of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel
I thank representative of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mr. Giovanie Biha, and also President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Omar Alieu Touray, for the insights.
We share the concerns that were raised today regarding the situation in many countries of West Africa and the Sahel. The region is faced with increased terrorism-related challenges. Inter-ethnical and inter-communal conflicts continue, organized crime and drug trafficking are proliferating. In the second half of 2022, lots of civilians died at the hands of militants. We express our support for all those who engage in a difficult fight against terrorism in the region. We are concerned that subversive elements are trying to find their way to the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea.
We must state that withdrawal of counter-terrorism operation Barkhane and European Takuba force from Mali that was not coordinated with Bamako is producing a negative effect on the security situation, at least in the short term. In these circumstances, the Malian military had to take over the whole responsibility for combating terrorism. Nevertheless, there have been some positive results already. Russia is providing all possible assistance to Mali in conformity with our bilateral agreements. We reject any baseless allegations that attempt to besmirch Russian assistance to Mali and other countries of the continent. Some delegations said again today that Russia allegedly robs Africa off its resources or facilitates growth of terrorist threats in that part of the world. However in reality, this is something that countries who made such remarks today do across the globe, including in Africa. They wanted to plunder Libya's resources so badly that they did not hesitate to destroy the country and destabilize the entire Sahel. So when accusing Russia they simply mock at the common sense and the ability of African states to assess adequately the true causes of their outstanding problems and choose whom to cooperate with.
We welcome the efforts of ECOWAS in the area of political mediation in the region. We are convinced that an equal and respectful dialogue of this African organization with the authorities of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea can facilitate settlement of the existing disputes and promote constitutional recovery in those states. At the same time, we are very much concerned over the attempts of some Western states to disturb the African unity, set ones against the others, including in the context of their cooperation with Russia. As we see, such steps can but aggravate the situation.
We are convinced that the main role in maintaining peace and security in the region must be played by its states. And the task of the international community is to render effective assistance in this matter. We advocate for Africans adopting a truly independent course when addressing related issues, which corresponds to the principle “African solutions to the African problems”. We support the decision made at the ECOWAS summit in Abuja on 4 December 2022 to fund the 1-billion-USD action plan for combating terrorism for the period 2020-2024. In this regard, we wish success to the regional states in carrying out a joint strategic assessment of security and governance in the Sahel and implementing the Accra initiative.
Back to the issue of UNOWAS, we are convinced that the Office faces large-scale and difficult tasks: to promote the resolution of regional crises, participate in political mediation, help to strengthen state institutions and implement the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and also coordinate other UN presences on the ground.
Whether the Office can function efficiently directly depends on how well it coordinates with regional organizations such as the African Union, ECOWAS, the Lake Chad Basin Commission. We support the repeated decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Commission regarding the need to strengthen interaction and coordination between all mechanisms operating in the region in order to solve the problems of the Sahel.
In conclusion, we remind our colleagues that after the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was closed in 2020, UNOWAS assumed responsibility for monitoring developments in this country. In these circumstances, we believe that preserving UNSC sanctions against Guinea-Bissau under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that are only envisaged for situations characterized by threats to international peace and security, is absurd. We call to start dismantling the sanctions gradually.
Russia will continue to engage constructively, i.a. as a permanent member of the Security Council, in collective efforts aimed at ensuring stability in West Africa and the Sahel, and carry on with bilateral support to countries of the region, which includes building of combat capacity of the armed forces, training of military and law enforcement personnel, and provision of humanitarian assistance. We are ready for meaningful and constructive discussion of renewal of the mandate of UNOWAS for the next three years.