READ – Full remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on West Africa and the Sahel

Ambassador Richard Mills, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, New York, July 8, 2021

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for your briefing, Special Representative Annadif. It’s a pleasure to welcome you back to the Security Council in your new role as SRSG for UNOWAS. And thank you, Ms. Ayemou, for your remarks and particularly for your recommendations to us on how to empower women across West Africa. They’re useful and helpful, and my delegation takes serious note of them.

To start, the U.S. government applauds the recent partnership between UNOWAS and others to launch a regional working group that addresses the critical issues of climate change, environment, security, and development in West Africa. These are key issues for the region. And we support so many important groups coming together to take them on. Today, I’d like to talk about three areas of focus for UNOWAS: strengthening democracy, stopping terrorism, and supporting community-led solutions to violence.

First, my delegation wants to recognize the hard work UNOWAS has done to support elections and transitional governments in the Sahel region. This year, despite political instability and violent protests, Niger had its first ever successful transfer of power between presidents – and that is a remarkable achievement. The Constitutional Court’s confirmation of President Bazoum’s victory highlighted how strong institutional mechanisms really are key to healthy democracies. And we welcome President Bazoum’s commitment to addressing security threats in the region. And we celebrate his promise to prioritize women’s inclusion and women’s mobility.

In Mali, unfortunately, we are seeing the opposite trend. The United States stands with ECOWAS and the international community in calling for Mali’s return to constitutional rule through democratic elections in February 2022. We condemn the detention of former officials of Mali’s transition government. And we join the world in calling for the immediate, unconditional release of those still detained and under house arrest. Their continued detention is a direct assault on the country’s ongoing transition to the return of democracy.

Second, terrorist groups continue to perpetrate far too much violence against civilians and UN peacekeepers across the Sahel. We support all efforts to counter violent extremist groups. We need to protect civilians during armed conflict, and we need to boost confidence in regional security forces and the governing authorities. And we also condemn the recent attacks in Burkina Faso that killed 138 people, many of them children. We particularly condemn the use of child soldiers.

Third and finally, given this intercommunal violence, we deeply value the efforts of ECOWAS and UNOWAS to promote long-term security and stability across the Sahel. We strongly support and welcome community-led projects to address these concerns. After all, the communities affected by this violence are best positioned to know how to stop it. That means soliciting input from individuals and including civil society organizations in the process.

So, we support UNOWAS and the governments in West Africa and the Sahel working together, in partnership, to develop a civilian-led joint project to address local conflicts. This project will be critical – and hopefully, it will help lead to long-term peace, prosperity, and security in this region.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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