“Non-state armed groups continue to carry out large-scale attacks against civilian and military targets and engage in clashes over access to resources, territorial control and influence,” said Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, UN Under-Secretary-General for Africa, part of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and UN Peace Operations.

The Council met to assess the state of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which brings together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Established in 2017, its main role as an international military operation is to counter the rising threat of terrorism, improve criminal justice, border security management and the spread of militant religious extremism.

Extremists collide

“Terrorism and violent extremist groups often target border areas, especially the three border areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, Liptako-Gourma. In this regard, earlier this year there was an increase in clashes between the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. (ISGS) and Jama’at Nu rat al-Islam wal-Muslirnin (JNIM),” she added.

In this context, “the recent instability in the eastern Sahel, Sudan, is an additional source of concern,” Pobee said, adding that “the devastating effects of the continued the destabilization of the Sahel will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent.”

Horrible humanitarian situation

She recalled that the security crisis is exacerbating an already serious humanitarian situation. In Burkina Faso, 4.7 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance this year, up from 3.5 million in 2022. And in Mali, 8.8 million people will need aid, up from 7.5 million.

As for the G5 force, the senior UN official noted that staff had done steady progress in its operationalization, in a context of reconfiguration of European and French forces, and Mali’s withdrawal from the force, and intensified threats in the tri-border region.

She emphasized that the G5 Sahel countries were determined to strengthen intra-regional cooperation, including by establishing bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms with the Malian armed forces in the fight against terrorism.

The uncertainty continues

However, she noted that despite these efforts, insecurity in the tri-border region continues to grow.

Pobee emphasized that the tripartite agreement between the European Union, the G5 Sahel and the United Nations is expected to expire in June. When this agreement expires, logistical and operational support from the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSto the G5 Sahel Joint Force, will cease.

She said that “provides an opportunity to reflect on how the international community should renew their approaches to support regional security mechanisms”.

Pobee added that through the United Nations Office for Human Rights, OHCHRthe UN has continued to support the joint force in the implementation of its international framework for compliance with human rights and humanitarian law, noting that “significant institutional, legal and behavioral advances and changes have been made.”

The Joint Force now has an internal mechanism to assign responsibility for incidents, analyze patterns, take necessary corrective actions, and adjust its operational behavior.

“Going forward, work on human rights will continue with regional and national security actors in the Sahel will remain essential in connection with the deteriorating security situation,” she insisted.

In this context, Pobee emphasized that political and operational support from the partners remains crucial for the stabilization of Mali and the entire Sahel region.

Renewed international support will prevent the Sahel crisis from upsetting the fragile political balance in the region and will help prevent “a new spread of insecurity in coastal countries”.

“For its part, the United Nations stands ready to further support the efforts of the G5 Sahel, including through support for capacity building in areas such as prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation, the rule of law and border security management,” She said.

She recalled that the UN is committed to working with all partners to ensure that governance structures are more democratic and open, and that the people of the Sahel have greater confidence in their institutions.

“Significant progress in the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime in the Sahel must be done desperately. Without significant gains, it will be increasingly difficult to reverse the trajectory of security in the Sahel and the continued expansion of insecurity into coastal countries in West Africa,” she concluded.