READ – Full remarks by Ambassador Richard Mills at UN Security Council Briefing on G5 Sahel Joint Force

Ambassador Richard Mills, Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations, New York, New York, November 12, 2021

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix; thank you Madam Ambassador; and thank you, Madam Sinare, for your briefings. It is especially important that the Council continues to hear from civil society representatives like you, Madam Sinare, so thank you.

Like other Council members, the United States is alarmed by rising violent extremism, intercommunal violence, the growing humanitarian needs, and certain cases of democratic backsliding in the Sahel. The tragic attack in Niger that killed 69 civilians only deepens that alarm. We join others in offering our condolences to the Niger delegation and to the families of those who lost loved ones in this horrific attack. I want to begin by thanking our fellow Council members Niger, Kenya, and France on behalf of my delegation for organizing such a successful Security Council visit to Mali and Niger.

In Mali, most of us sent a strong message that elections must occur according to the timeframe agreed upon by the Transition Government and ECOWAS with elections on February 27, 2022, as previously announced. In Niger, the delegation was warmly welcomed by the highest levels of leadership, including the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and my delegation looks forward to meeting the President again under Niger’s Security Council Presidency next month.

The United States welcomes efforts to support the G5 Sahel, to advance stability and development in the region. We are committed to continuing our strong bilateral partnership with Member States of the G5 Sahel by providing equipment, training, and advisory support for critical capability gaps. Reflecting this commitment, the United States has obligated more than $588 million to provide security assistance and other countering-violent extremism support to the five countries of the G5 Sahel since 2017. We believe this assistance has helped strengthen capacity and effectiveness while supporting efforts to address and protect human rights. We ask partners to honor their pledges to the Joint Force, as well as the individual militaries, and join us in finding ways to do more with key Sahelian partners.

One of the main messages the Council heard from the trip is that G5 countries need increased international support. Specifically, the G5 countries have requested help with education, health, addressing climate change, and bilateral security assistance. We look forward to working with our fellow Council members to identify additional bilateral and non-UN multilateral options to fill the critical gaps.

Let me be clear: The United States continues to believe that the UN – regardless of the mechanism – is not an appropriate vehicle to provide logistical support to the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The Joint Force is a coalition of security forces mandated to conduct counterterrorism operations primarily within their own borders. It is not a multilateral force on foreign soil mandated as a peace operation. Our focus at the Security Council must remain squarely on political solutions and tying security responses to effective political strategies. Our collective efforts in the Sahel must go beyond a military response – as others have noted – and address problems with governance.

We continue to support MINUSMA and its mission goals of supporting Malian authorities in holding elections on time, implementing the Algiers Accord, and protecting civilians. MINUSMA’s principles, goals, and exit strategy are not aligned with an offensive, counterterrorism-mandated operation such as the Joint Force – nor should they be. The path to lasting stability also lies in pursuing justice and accountability for human rights violations and abuses through legitimate efforts to prevent and investigate such incidences. The G5 Joint Force must fully implement its Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Compliance Framework and OHCHR needs the right resources to this aim.

Peaceful and timely transitions of power to democratically elected governments in Mali and Chad are essential to long-term prosperity and stability in the region. Democratic transitions will also allow many governments to resume bilateral and regional support currently restricted because of military coups. In Mali, we support ECOWAS’ leadership on the political transition. We welcome this Council’s continued support for ECOWAS’ decision that the Mali Transition Government is conditioned on holding presidential and legislative elections, as reaffirmed through the Security Council press statement agreed on November 4.

We also welcome the statement issued by the heads of state and heads of government of ECOWAS on November 7 regarding the situations in Mali and Guinea. We are concerned that the Malian Transition Government did not present a timetable to ECOWAS by the end of October as they themselves committed to doing. We call on the Transition Government to publicize an election timetable to ensure inclusive and transparent processes in preparing for and holding free and fair elections, including the full, effective, and meaningful participation of women and youth.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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