A senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council today that political stability is taking root in West Africa.
Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) Said Djinnit pointed out that progress remains tenuous and could be undermined by developments such the presence of an extremist group in Nigeria or the recent disturbances in Guinea-Bissau.
In Guinea-Bissau, media reports indicated that Guinea-Bissau’s navy commander has been arrested after disturbances erupted last month, which some of the country’s senior officials described as a coup attempt.
In November 2011, the extremist group known as Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks in Nigeria. It is the same group that claimed responsibility for the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja in late August that resulted in the deaths of 24 people, including 12 of the world body’s staff.
“During the reporting period, the sub-region has not seen a repeat of open conflict nor tensions tied with institutional or political crises among States.” – Said Djinnit
He also paid tribute to countries in the region and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), civil society, including women’s groups, for their efforts to solidify stability.
He also praised the role of the UN through its various offices in the region for continuing to support countries in the sub-region.
He stressed that the situation still calls for the world to remain wary as progress continues to be tenuous as recent events in Guinea-Bissau demonstrated.
He noted that countries in the sub-region are still vulnerable to incidents that can jeopardize progress in peacebuilding, democracy and stability.
Like in Nigeria, Boko Haram is a local terrorist group professing allegiance to Al Qaeda. Boko Haram militants attacked several churches on 2011 Christmas Day, killing dozens of worshippers. The bombings occurred in Madala, on the outskirts of Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and in the north-eastern city of Jos.
He added that while the West African sub-region was spared conflicts and violent crises during the second half of last year, it has had to tackle a re-emergence of trans-border threats, particularly increased maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
He reported UNOWA will continue to mobilize the UN system as a whole to strengthen stability and prevent crises which could undermine steps taken towards peace, democracy and development.