West Africa has continued to make impressive progress in moving past the conflicts of its recent history, and moving towards greater stability, better governance and more equitable rule of law. Economically, some areas of the sub-region, such as Cote D’Ivoire, consistently posts impressive growth rates and is frequently cited as an example of the continent’s untapped potential. However, these positive features coexist uneasily with more worrisome negative trends, some of which echo previous conflict drivers.
In particular, West Africa is acutely vulnerable to internal and external stressors that target its remaining structural and institutional weaknesses. The devastation that the Ebola crisis has already wrought is the most recent, and extreme, example. A number of issues will continue to test governments, democratic processes, and efforts to support poverty reduction and the rule of law, including the following: growing income inequality; food insecurity; the presence of large numbers of underemployed and dissatisfied young people frustrated with their governments on a variety of issues. Moreover, the challenge of porous borders for states trying to stem the flow of arms, insurgents, and drugs, as well as the ongoing crisis in Mali, will continue to test governments, democratic processes and efforts to support poverty reduction and the rule of law.
United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) UNOWA became operational in January 2002 as the UN’s first regional political mission, Its goal is to promote an integrated sub-regional approach to peace and security challenges in the fifteen member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mauritania. UNOWA’s mandate has been renewed until December 2016 with a focus on three core objectives: Monitoring political developments, carrying out good offices, and enhanci Read More...
UNOWA became operational in January 2002 as the UN’s first regional political mission, Its goal is to promote an integrated sub-regional approach to peace and security challenges in the fifteen member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mauritania. UNOWA’s mandate has been renewed until December 2016 with a focus on three core objectives:
In carrying out these functions, UNOWA also supports enhanced synergies between the UN and the work of ECOWAS, the Mano River Union (MRU) and the African Union (AU) with respect to West Africa.
On 8 May 2014, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Said Djinnit, who headed UNOWA since 2008, was also designated as the Secretary-General’s High-level Representative to Nigeria to provide UN support to ongoing efforts to address the threat of Boko Haram. However, on 17 July 2014, the Secretary-General announced that Mr. Djinnit would be succeeding Mary Robinson as his new Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. UNOWA is currently headed by Mohammed Ibn Chambas, who was appointed as the new Special Representative for West Africa on 12 September 2014.
The crisis in Mali and the wider Sahel (dealt with in greater detail in the Mission Notes on Mali and the Sahel) continued to be a priority for UNOWA throughout 2013. The office worked closely with the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel to assist with the development of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and subsequently to establish a coordination mechanism to guide its implementation. The UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel is formulated around support to three strategic goals: (i) enhancing inclusive and effective governance throughout the region; (ii) strengthening national and regional security mechanisms so they are capable of addressing cross-border threats and; (iii) integrating humanitarian and development plans and interventions to build long-term resilience. As of January 2014, the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel was co-located in Dakar with UNOWA.
Throughout 2013, the SRSG also utilized his good offices function to assuage ongoing political tensions, which in the case of Guinea had periodically turned violent during protests throughout 2012 and 2013 following the repeated postponement of contentious legislative elections that should have been held within six months of the president’s inauguration in 2010. His continued encouragement of the need for constructive dialogue resulted in Guinean President, Alpha Condé, and the main opposition leader having their first face-to-face meeting in almost a year.
SRSG Djinnit was also appointed to a team of facilitators supporting the process for an inclusive national dialogue. Shortly thereafter, the Guinean parties signed an anti-violence declaration. Persistent negotiations resulted in a political agreement for the participation of opposition parties in the electoral process, and legislative elections were eventually held on 28 September 2013, with 70 per cent voter turnout. In addition to assisting Guinea with completing its political transition, the SRSG also repeatedly engaged with leaders and key political stakeholders to reinforce the importance of healthy electoral and political dialogue processes in Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Togo and Mauritania.
Noting the growing impact that drug trafficking and organized crime are having on the sub-region, ECOWAS decided to extend and, with UN support, revise its Regional Action Plan on the topic. The SRSG continued to raise the profile of these issues by convening and attending various international and sub-regional meetings, and continuing to advocate for sustained political and operational commitment to the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI). WACI focuses on the development and support of transnational crime units, which to date are operational in Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire intend to establish their own national units in the near future. At the same session, ECOWAS also endorsed its Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Implementation Plan.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has also increased over the past three years, with the recorded number of incidents recently surpassing those in the Gulf of Aden. As such, the SRSG facilitated meetings with stakeholders involved in the development of a regional anti-piracy strategy for the Gulf of Guinea. UNOWA was part of a working group that established an interregional coordination center for maritime piracy (located in Cameroon) inaugurated in September 2014.
Heeding requests contained in three Security Council Resolutions, UNOWA initiated the development, with ECOWAS and the Mano River Union, of a sub-regional strategy to address cross-border security in the Mano River region. The strategy was subsequently adopted in October 2013, and UNOWA will co-chair a follow-up committee and contribute to the development of action plans and resource mobilization for implementation.
In collaboration with partners, UNOWA continued to support the development of the ECOWAS political framework and plan of action on security sector governance and reform. UNOWA also continued to provide strategic advice, in particular to the Guinean government, on their security sector reform process.
An active SRSG whose diplomatic style was well suited to address the particular challenges of the sub-region, Djinnit’s departure signifies the beginning of a new era for UNOWA. It is also notable that SRSG Chambas will be the first West African to head the office, and will bring considerable political weight given his previous position as the president of ECOWAS, one of UNOWA’s most crucial partners. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen what level of involvement UNOWA can have on rapidly developing cross-border issues while also focusing on the many other challenges under its purview. This demonstrates the frequent pressure that UNOWA faces: finding balance between what is feasible within its limited capacity, and the multiple requirements of its sub-regional scope. Creation of a dedicated analytical unit to provide information to support good offices and preventative action, and to monitor regional trends, could be an important addition in this regard.Less...
CNMC (box) The UN established the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) in 2002 at the request of both governments to assist with implementation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the land and maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria. The CNMC is institutionally co-located with UNOWA. The SRSG is the Chairman of the CNMC and, until its conclusion in October 2013 with the final meeting held in Geneva, was also the chairman of the Follow-Up Committee for the Greentree A Read More...
The UN established the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) in 2002 at the request of both governments to assist with implementation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the land and maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria. The CNMC is institutionally co-located with UNOWA. The SRSG is the Chairman of the CNMC and, until its conclusion in October 2013 with the final meeting held in Geneva, was also the chairman of the Follow-Up Committee for the Greentree Agreement. The Greentree Agreement of 2006, signed by both parties, stipulated the transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon.
In 2013, the Mixed Commission agreed to resume construction of boundary pillars, stalled since 2011. The SRSG also appealed for funding of confidence-building development projects for border communities affected by the demarcation. In October 2013, full sovereignty of the Bakassi zone was transferred to Cameroon, marking the end of the implementation of the Follow-Up Committee to the Greentree Agreement.
Most recently, the parties met in February 2014, to discuss activities that would have to be undertaken in order to complete the border demarcation by the end of the year. However, the security situation in north-eastern Nigeria has slowed down progress as field visits have not been able to take place. As of February, 1947 km of the estimated 2100 km land boundary have been assessed.
The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was established in January 2010, replacing a UN office (UNOGBIS) that had been established in 1999. Since July 2014, the office is headed by Special Representative Miguel Trovoada who replaced Special Representative José Ramos-Horta. The current mandate has been extended until 28 February 2015 with tasks that include supporting an inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation process; assisting in strengthening democratic institutions and enhancing the capacity of the State; providing strategic and technical advice and support for security and justice sector reform; assisting national authorities in the fight against drug trafficking and trans-national organized crime; contributing to the mobilization and coordination of international assistance; and aligning efforts with ECOWAS, the AU and other actors, in support of the restoration and maintenance of constitutional order.
The findings of a strategic assessment mission that took place in early November 2014 will be presented to the Security Council in January 2015, on the basis of which any adjustments to the mandate will be recommended.
The situation facing the incoming SRSG Ramos-Horta in early 2013 was complex, marked by extreme political volatility, an increase in human rights abuses, impunity and purported drug trafficking by government officials, a decrease in security, and economic collapse following the April 2012 coup d’état. Attempts to address these challenges were further complicated by an international community that was divided on the question of the recognition of the transitional government, in place following the 2012 coup.
In light of this fractured atmosphere, the SRSG began his assignment by embarking on a comprehensive round of consultations with national and international stakeholders. His goal was to forge a common vision for the restoration of constitutional order by holding elections before the end of 2013. To enable the SRSG to fully focus on his good offices and resource mobilization efforts, the Secretary-General proposed in May 2013 to establish a political pillar in UNIOGBIS to be headed by a second Deputy SRSG, and to increase the number of field offices from two to four.
During this time, the office was able to advance some of its less contentious work on human rights with the police, and to support the implementation of a women’s political platform. The overall climate, however, remained severely restrictive of the majority of activities that UNIOGBIS could undertake and/or support, with an assessment mission concluding that the country’s fragility “hampered the provision of assistance by the United Nationals system.”
The office was able though to continue to work alongside the ECOWAS Mission in Bissau (ECOMIB), providing technical support to implement the road map for defense and security sector reform. ECOMIB, approved in May 2012 with deployment formalized upon the signing of the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) in November 2012, is mandated to assist the political transition with a focus on SSR, especially strengthening the police. ECOMIB’s first task was to facilitate the withdrawal of the Angolan Military Mission (MISSANG) who were also supporting SSR efforts, but controversially so given that public perception was that this was an internal responsibility that was too sensitive to be handled by another country.
ECOWAS is also represented by their own mediator, Guinean president Alpha Condé. In addition, the AU has a Liaison Office in Guinea-Bissau that promotes the regional body’s policies on peace and security, headed by Special Representative Ovidio Manuel Barbosa Pequeno. During the most recent crisis, the office helped coordinate efforts for the restoration of constitutional order.
Growing concerns about the complicity of high-level Bissau-Guinean authorities in the drug trade were furthered by the arrest on 2 April 2013 of former Navy Chief of Staff Bubo Na Tchuto (who the U.S. government had previously designated as a ‘drug kingpin’) in a sting operation led by the U.S.. Na Tchuto was taken to the U.S. and charged with conspiring to distribute narcotics through an arms-for-cocaine deal, which he believed he was making with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General António Indjai, was also indicted although he remains in Guinea-Bissau.
Despite these developments, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s presence in the country ended in April 2013 due to a lack of funding. The deficit of both financial resources and political will considerably limited the UN’s ability to impact restoration of stability or address worrying signs of the involvement of the military and political elite in the drug trade and their interference in the justice system.
UNIOGBIS nonetheless continued to assist national stakeholders in preparations for the elections, which were finally held on 13 April 2014 after several delays. The second round was held on 18 May. Both rounds were conducted peacefully, with the presidency won by former finance minster José Màrio Vaz. Guinea-Bissau has since been re-admitted to the AU, resumed participation in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), and is beginning to receive international assistance, which had been suspended during the transitional period. The country still faces considerable challenges and funding shortfalls. As such, the government has requested UN financial and technical support in organizing a donor round table for early 2015.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was established in February 2004 at the request of the Ivorian stakeholders to help implement peace agreements aimed to put an end to the 2002 civil war. UNOCI is led by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane of Niger. UNOCI’s current mandate, valid until 30 June 2015, is primarily focused on protection of civilians; providing good offices and political support, including for the preparations for peaceful October 2015 presidential elections; addressing remaining security threats; assisting the Government with disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes; and helping implement security sector reform (SSR).
In early 2013, a DPKO-led assessment mission recommended adjustments to UNOCI and options for reinforcing cooperation between UNOCI and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The special report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/197) of 28 March 2013 stated that Côte d’Ivoire has the potential to reclaim its historic role as an anchor for stability and prosperity in the sub-region. The report proposed options for reducing the UNOCI military component by the equivalent of one battalion by 31 July 2013, potentially with a gradual reduction of two more battalions by mid-2015. By its resolution 2162 (2014), the Security Council extended the mandate of UNOCI and decided that the Mission should be reconfigured to consist of up to 5,437 military personnel from the current limit of 7,137.
In April 2013, municipal and regional elections took place without any major incidents, although they were boycotted by the political party of former President Gbagbo, who is currently facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague related to 2010-11 post-elections violence. Progress on inclusive political dialogue has been challenging, although the Government, with support from the SRSG in the context of her good offices mandate, demonstrated its political will and resolve to pursue political dialogue and compromise through undertaking of Independent Electoral Commission reforms to create space for the opposition in that body. The opposition nonetheless continues to claim inconsistent application of justice and a lack of commitment to national reconciliation by the Government.
Although the security situation has greatly improved, challenges continue to exist, particularly along the border with Liberia. UNMIL and UNOCI continued their inter-mission cooperation: both missions regularly exchange information, coordinate border patrols and facilitate cross-border dialogue between communities. However, the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in March 2014 prompted the Ivorian authorities to close its borders with contiguous countries most affected by the disease. Formal joint border security operations and meetings have been suspended pending the eradication of the virus. The proposal to establish a quick-reaction force (QRF) within UNOCI, that could also provide rapid support to UNMIL if needed, was authorized in the most recent mandate renewal in May 2014. The QRF is to become operational by May 2015.
The DDR process gained some momentum throughout the period under review, although the initial target of reaching 30,000 combatants by the end of 2013 proved to be overambitious and the national Authority for DDR (ADDR) revised it to 23,000. The latest target figure established by the ADDR in late 2014 is 66,000 former combatants to undergo the DDR process. UNOCI is mandated to support the completion of the DDR process, which is planned to conclude before the 2015 elections, although it is already clear that a caseload of former combatants would remain after those elections. Concerns also remain about the level of funding and reintegration opportunities for former combatants.
The national security sector reform strategy, which the government endorsed in September 2012, has slowed down at the implementation phase, especially outside of Abidjan; but with UNOCI’s support the Government has recently accelerated the decentralization process. Ongoing mistrust between the army and the police and gendarmerie, and between the security agencies and the population, will be a major hurdle for full implementation of the strategy.
By the end of December 2013, Ivorian security agencies assumed full responsibility for the provision of close security protection for the Government and key political actors. Preparatory discussions of UNOCI’s eventual handover of broader responsibilities to the UN country team revealed that a lack of funding and UN presence outside of the capital would mean the transfer of civilian functions will need to be conducted directly to the Government. This will require external support, including funding.
Security Council authorization for the French forces, which support both UNOCI as well as the government, was extended until 30 June 2015. However, in May, the French Defense Minister announced the transformation of its “Licorne” military presence as of 1 January 2015, with an increase from 500 to 800 troops, to serve as an advance operational base and logistics hub based in Abidjan for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel.
Indicating progress in key areas such as the overall security situation and the fulfillment of the minimum requirements of the Kimberly Process diamond certification scheme, the Security Council in April 2014 eased the arms embargo for military equipment intended for the maintenance of law and order and lifted the diamond embargo, while extending the mandate of the Group of Experts for another thirteen months. Nevertheless, concerns remain regarding delays in the implementation of SSR and DDR, and the existence of historically divisive issues, such as land disputes and national identity.
The 2015 elections will be a critical indicator of not only the depth of progress that has been made thus far, but also what the future of UNOCI will look like. If all goes well, the Security Council in its resolution 2162 (2014) indicated the intention to consider further downsizing UNOCI, reviewing its mandate and its possible termination after this election. Any decision would be based on security conditions on the ground and the capacity of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to take over UNOCI’s security role.
The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established in October 2003 to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace process that ended the second Liberian civil war. The mission’s current mandate is focused on supporting the government in consolidating peace and stability, protecting civilians, and successfully transitioning security responsibility to the Liberia National Police (LNP). Although due to expire on 30 September 2014, in light of the Ebola crisis and the accompanying increase in insecurity, the Security Council decided to rollover the mandate until 31 December 2014. The mandate was further extended by resolution 2190 (2014), extending the Mission until 30 September 2015.
Since July 2012, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Karin Landgren from Sweden has led the mission. There is also a Liberia sanctions regime, which has been in place since 2003, and a Panel of Experts, which plays an important role in monitoring some of the remaining conflict dynamics.
August 2013 was the tenth anniversary of Liberia’s 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. While the country has made laudable strides in achieving general stability, the milestone also demonstrated the need to achieve more consistent progress on structural reforms. Working toward this, the government launched the National Reconciliation Road Map in June 2013. The Road Map emphasizes the importance of economic empowerment, a shared national identity, as well as effective and decentralized justice and governance structures. Implementation of the Road Map, however, has thus far relied almost exclusively on the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), and it is therefore not as sustainable or nationally-owned as required for a meaningful national healing and reconciliation process.
The constitutional review process is also ongoing, with the review committee’s mandate extended until 2015, but this process faces various challenges in terms of timeline and capacity constraints. The process of updating the national security strategy faces similar constraints and, despite having identified priorities, lacks further development space within the national budget. Among donors, frustration with the slow pace of these important processes is becoming increasingly evident.
The security situation, while mostly stable on the surface, remains fragile and volatile, with mob violence, armed robbery and incidents of sexual violence occurring with frequency. Land ownership issues, poor natural resource management, youth unemployment and grievances over concession agreements within the extractives sector continue to be at the heart of many disputes.
The first of five security and justice hubs, set up by the government with PBF funding, became operational last year, increasing access to these services. Yet there are serious questions over funding sustainability to construct the remaining hubs as well as keep them all operational. There are also questions about whether the hub has increased access to critical services in areas of the country historically underserved by the government.
Stabilization of the situation along the border with Côte d’Ivoire allowed the Liberian army to withdraw its forces from the area in June 2013, but an allegedly politically motivated attack on a border post in February 2014, along with the subsequent incident in May, demonstrates that the area remains of concern, especially in light of upcoming elections.
In February 2014, UNMIL began the second phase of a three-phase drawdown, which was completed in June, with a military presence now remaining in eight out of fifteen counties. However, transition of these areas to the Liberian authorities has proved difficult, as staff resources and equipment to fill these gaps have not been adequate. The LNP has also struggled with its lack of capacity, resources and level of professionalism required to exercise authority outside of Monrovia. There is therefore no current specific plan for a reduction of UNMIL’s police component.
A February 2014 review led by DPKO concluded that the full handover of UNMIL security tasks to national authorities should take place no later than 2016, well in advance of the 2017 presidential election. In this context, the review called for the UN to “reimagine” its support for the country, including by giving an explicit good offices role to the Special Representative so that she can more strongly encourage progress around national reconciliation. However, as the country is still in the throes of the Ebola crisis, with no obvious trajectory at the time of writing, it is unclear how the unfolding situation and ensuing impacts will affect the recommendations that have been put forth up until this point.
By resolution 2190 (2014), the Security Council decided to defer consideration of any further drawdown of UNMIL military and police until the Ebola outbreak has been eradicated, while also advising the Government that it would expect that the transition of UNMIL’s security responsibilities would be fully transferred to national institutions by mid-2016. The resolution also called for the government to make additional progress in crucial areas, including with respect to national reconciliation and constitutional reform, and provided the SRSG with an explicit mandate to provide good offices and political support to that end.
The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), established in 2008, was one of the first fully integrated UN political missions. Its final mandate, which expired on 31 March 2014, focused on facilitating political dialogue, and supporting the government with the constitutional review, the security sector, and the strengthening of human rights institutions. UNIPSIL was led by Executive Representative of the Secretary-General Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen from May 2012 until its closure.
After the peaceful conduct of elections in November 2012, detailed discussions about a timeline and exit strategy for UNIPSIL began in earnest, with a technical assessment mission deployed to Sierra Leone in January 2013. The mission found that although additional challenges remain, the country has made considerable progress, accompanied by various UN peace operations since 1998 and the PBC’s engagement since 2006.
Among other tasks, UNIPSIL has helped support the government in areas of conflict prevention, dialogue promotion, good governance, elections, capacity-building, promotion of human rights and rule of law, and engagement with donor partners. The assessment mission suggested that the remaining focus for the transition should be on utilizing the political nature of UNIPSIL’s mandate in order to make further progress on key areas that benefit from the political leadership of the mission, with an emphasis on the constitutional review process.
The findings of the assessment mission addressed some of the possible ramifications of drawing down UNIPSIL. The importance of retaining some political capacity within the incoming Resident Coordinator’s team was reflected in the recommendation of having a Peace and Development Advisor (PDA) deployed to assist with the monitoring and analysis of the country’s peacebuilding trajectory. If necessary, UNOWA will support the UN country team with its good offices. The assessment report also noted that the PBC would play a critical role during the transition, as the closing of the political mission results in greater reliance on voluntary funding to continue the UN’s work.
On 5 March 2014, the Secretary-General attended the closing ceremony of UNIPSIL and the transfer of responsibilities to the UN country team. In his final report, the Secretary-General noted that while the trajectory of the country was positive, more work had to be done to ensure that the gains that had been made thus far become irreversible. Governance, corruption, natural resource management, youth unemployment and economic exclusion will still need concerted attention, and core peacebuilding challenges will remain for some time. Therefore, moving forward, the PBC will stay engaged with Sierra Leone, but will have a lighter and more flexible role as it continues to serve as a focal point and advocate for peacebuilding. Its engagement will be reviewed again in early 2015, when further adjustments might be made. As with Liberia, the full impact of the Ebola crisis on many of the issues discussed above, remains to be seen.Less...
On 18 September 2014, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2177, co-sponsored by an unprecedented 130 countries, calling for immediate action on the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) called the outbreak “likely the greatest peacetime challenge the UN and its agencies have ever faced.” There are multiple concerns about the severity and manner in which this crisis has the potential to reverse gains and Read More...
On 18 September 2014, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2177, co-sponsored by an unprecedented 130 countries, calling for immediate action on the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) called the outbreak “likely the greatest peacetime challenge the UN and its agencies have ever faced.” There are multiple concerns about the severity and manner in which this crisis has the potential to reverse gains and exacerbate the challenges discussed above.
The existence of three areas of instability – the Mano River basin, the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel – combined with growing violence in north-eastern Nigeria presents a bleak security outlook. In 2016-2017 there will also be presidential elections in eight countries of the sub-region. Concurrently, the UN is drawing down two of its peace operations, while a third mission ended its operations in 2014, thus increasing the pressure on national institutions to deliver basic services and public goods.
While these challenges may have looked less daunting when weighed against the strong economic performance of the sub-region in the recent past, the effects of Ebola and continued existence of weak national institutions have the grave potential to damage that optimism. It will be critical to increase international commitment to West Africa in the near-term, not only for emerging issues such as the health crisis, but also to sustain the hard-won progress in peace and security for the region.Less...
In early 2012, the governments of Mali and Guinea-Bissau were overthrown in successive military coups. Both crises, as well as continued violence and illicit trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia’s border region, pose serious risks to the region’s delicate gains of the past several years. They also demonstrate the continuing structural weaknesses in the region, including porous borders, weak rule of law and justice systems, widespread corruption, and socioeconomic problems such as high Read More...
In early 2012, the governments of Mali and Guinea-Bissau were overthrown in successive military coups. Both crises, as well as continued violence and illicit trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia’s border region, pose serious risks to the region’s delicate gains of the past several years. They also demonstrate the continuing structural weaknesses in the region, including porous borders, weak rule of law and justice systems, widespread corruption, and socioeconomic problems such as high youth unemployment. These challenges further expose the region to transnational security threats including terrorism and organized crime, all against the backdrop of a looming humanitarian crisis in the Sahel caused by a major drought (see Mission Note 4.9 for coverage on the Sahel and Mali). The United Nations has an extensive presence in the region. In addition to a regional political office and the newly appointed Special Envoy for the Sahel, there are peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, and political missions in Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. With the exception of Côte d’Ivoire, the countries hosting these missions are also on the UN Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda.
Regional organizations were also active in West Africa in 2012. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deployed a military mission to GuineaBissau. In response to the deteriorating security situation in the north of Mali, the UN Security Council authorized an African-led military intervention force in December. The European Union established a military support mission in Mali and a police mission in Niger.Less...
In January 2002 the UN established its first regional political office to promote an integrated subregional approach to peace and security challenges in West Africa. Covering the fifteen member states of ECOWAS and Mauritania, the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) has the broad mandate to enhance the contributions of the UN toward achieving peace and security in the region. UNOWA also supports the efforts of the Manu River Union (MRU) in this direction. Among its core functions, UNOWA carries ou Read More...
In January 2002 the UN established its first regional political office to promote an integrated subregional approach to peace and security challenges in West Africa. Covering the fifteen member states of ECOWAS and Mauritania, the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) has the broad mandate to enhance the contributions of the UN toward achieving peace and security in the region. UNOWA also supports the efforts of the Manu River Union (MRU) in this direction. Among its core functions, UNOWA carries out good offices, promotes good governance and the role of women in peace and security, and enhances regional capacities for conflict mediation, prevention, and cross-border threats. With a current mandate until December 2013, UNOWA is headed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Said Djinnit.
With multiple crises emerging simultaneously in West Africa during 2012, the year was particularly challenging for the mission. SRSG Djinnit actively engaged in international efforts to address Mali’s armed rebellion and military coup as well as, in close cooperation with the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, the deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in the Sahel. In response to the coup in Guinea-Bissau, the SRSG, in coordination with the head of the UN peacebuilding office in the country, supported efforts to ensure a return to civilian rule and constitutional order. SRSG Djinnit also used his good offices function to address electoral tensions in Senegal and Togo and assisted in consolidating democratic processes and institutions ahead of the elections in Guinea.
To address the growing cross-border challenges, such as illicit movement of weapons and armed groups, UNOWA is actively engaged with the heads of UN peace operations in the region, as well as ECOWAS and the MRU, to develop a sub-regional security strategy to counter these threats, building on existing initiatives.
Together with the UN Office in Central Africa, the Economic Community of Central African States, ECOWAS, and other regional entities, UNOWA is developing an anti-piracy strategy and action plan to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and is supporting ECOWAS in designing a counterterrorism strategy. UNOWA also continues to implement the West Africa Coast Initiative, aimed at combating drug trafficking. In June 2012 a decision was taken to expand the initiative to Guinea, the first country without a UN presence on the ground to be added.1
In January 2010 the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) replaced a previous UN office initially established in 1999 to support the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and a military junta. UNIOGBIS’s mandated tasks include supporting efforts by the UN Peacebuilding Commission, addressing national reconciliation, and coordinating efforts of international partners on security sector reform (SSR).
In September 2010, following the appointment of two recurring coup-makers to top army positions, the EU withdrew its SSR mission, in place since 2008, and suspended most of its aid to the country. In March 2011 the Angolan Military Mission to Guinea-Bissau (MISSANG) was deployed to assist in efforts to reform the defense and security forces based on bilateral military cooperation agreements, as well as to implement an ECOWAS–Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) road map for SSR.
On 21 December 2011 the UN Security Council extended UNIOGBIS’s mandate until 28 February 2013, emphasizing the need for continued reform of the defense and security sectors. On 26 December, while President Malam Bacai Sanhá was hospitalized in Paris, MISSANG hindered an attempted coup by the army, after which the relationship between the two entities deteriorated rapidly.
Following President Sanhá’s death on 9 January 2012, presidential elections to determine his successor were held on 18 March, with inconclusive results. The election was overshadowed by the assassination of the former head of military intelligence and accusations of vote rigging by opposition candidates, including the opposition forerunner, who announced his boycott of the runoff vote scheduled for 29 April.
Following a 31 March joint fact-finding mission, including ECOWAS, the AU, and the UN, ECOWAS, alarmed by the mission’s observations, took measures to address the electoral dispute and appointed Guinean president Alpha Condé as mediator for the crisis.
On 12 April the army imprisoned the interim president and prime minister along with other senior officials. In the weeks leading up to the coup, ECOWAS and the Guinea-Bissauan prime minister in respective letters to the UN Secretary-General raised concerns about mounting tensions between the army and MISSANG2 and called for the deployment of a peacekeeping force to help maintain the country’s political stability.
In response to these concerns and following discussions with the AU and national stakeholders, ECOWAS on 26 April decided to deploy standby forces to Guinea-Bissau to facilitate the safe withdrawal of MISSANG, assist in securing the transitional process, and aid the implementation of the ECOWAS-CPLP SSR roadmap. Comprising over 600 soldiers and police officers from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Senegal, the Economic Community Mission in Bissau (ECOMIB) started joint daily patrols with the national police in July.
On 18 May, the UN adopted Resolution 2048, establishing the Guinea-Bissau Sanctions Committee, which imposed a travel ban on the coup’s leaders.3 Later the same month, under an agreement forged with ECOWAS, the junta ceded power to a transitional civilian government and agreed to elections within twelve months. The transitional government, however, excludes any members of the government overthrown in the April coup.
The ECOWAS agreement on the transitional arrangements has created deep divisions among national actors and the international community, hindering further progress. Stakeholders are divided between those supporting the transitional government and those who want to see a restoration of constitutional order through the return of the authorities in place prior to the April coup.
The UN has reaffirmed its support for the ECOWAS-led mediation process but has called for a consensual and inclusive solution. UNIOGBIS and the AU Liaison Office in Guinea-Bissau have taken steps to enhance the exchange of information between stakeholders and to ensure more effective coordination of international efforts toward a return to constitutional order. However, efforts to harmonize positions of the various partners in 2012 have not succeeded, and the political and security situation remained volatile, illustrated by an alleged coup attempt in October.
In an effort to forge unison, in late December the UN, EU, AU, ECOWAS, and the CPLP deployed a joint assessment mission to Guinea-Bissau to assess the political and security situation. The mission plans to recommend ways on how best these organizations can work together to assist the country in areas key to long-term stabilization, including SSR, strengthening the rule of law, combating drug trafficking, and promoting social-economic development.
In November, the transitional government, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, reportedly requested the replacement of UNIOGBIS SRSG Mutaboba, saying that he did not serve the interest of the transition under way. In early January, the SecretaryGeneral appointed former Timorese president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta as the new head of UNIOGBIS.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was established by the Security Council in 2004 to assist with implementation of the peace accords that ended the 2002 civil war. France’s Operation Licorne, deployed shortly after the outbreak of war, supports UNOCI militarily and assists in implementation of the peace accords and the holding of elections.
In April 2011, UNOCI and Licorne forces helped end five months of electoral violence that ensued after former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the November 2010 election results in favor of Alassane Ouattara. In December 2011, legislative elections were held, fully restoring the country’s constitutional order. However, attacks against civilians and security forces, including peacekeepers, and reports of coup attempts in 2012, destabilized the security situation.
UNOCI is currently mandated until July 2013, with the priority of protecting civilians and supporting the government in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration as well as SSR efforts. Following recommendations by the Secretary-General, Security Council Resolution 2062 (2012) endorsed a reduction of UNOCI’s military component equivalent to one battalion as soon as practical. The resolution also requests the Secretary-General to undertake an assessment of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire in a special report to be submitted no later than 31 March 2013.
The beginning of 2012 saw an increase of violent attacks on civilians, primarily in the west of the country. On 8 June, UNOCI peacekeepers were attacked and seven blue helmets from Niger were killed while responding to an attack on civilians near the Liberian border. A soldier of the national army was killed in a related attack the same day. The event underscores growing concern about the significant number of attacks on security forces, in particular in the border areas and near Abidjan, and an increasing mistrust among security elements.
Beginning in August, armed groups launched a string of attacks against military and police posts in Abidjan and the western parts of the country, causing casualties among government soldiers. These attacks took place against the backdrop of reported coup-plotting by elements loyal to Gbagbo in Liberia and Ghana. In October, the Group of Experts of the UN’s Côte d’Ivoire sanctions committee reported that exiled supporters of Gbagbo had established a strategic command in Ghana from which they seek to destabilize President Ouattara’s government. The report further alleges that the group sought to establish contact with extremist groups operating in northern Mali to set up operations against the Ivorian government.
The deteriorating security situation negatively affected reconciliation efforts in 2012. After the formation of a new government in March, political parties, with support from UNOCI, established a framework for ongoing dialogue to continue discussions in quarterly meetings. The first meeting took place on 21 June. Gbagbo’s party refused to participate and continued to condition its participation in government and upcoming local elections.4
In February the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would widen its investigation into possible war crimes to the start of the country’s civil war in 2002.
The trial of former president Gbagbo at the ICC is scheduled to proceed, after the Court rejected arguments that it lacked jurisdiction and ruled Gbagbo fit to stand trial in August.
In November, the ICC also indicted Gbagbo’s wife Simone, the first woman to face charges by the court, on charges including murder, rape, and persecution. In Côte d’Ivoire, the violent attacks against national security forces have led to the arrest and trial of three high-level Gbagbo supporters. On 11 October the Abi djan military court sentenced a top military ally of Gbagbo to fifteen years’ imprisonment—the first conviction since the 2011 postelection violence. Four other former military officers were also sentenced in relation to the same case. Critics charge that no Ouattara ally has been arrested or credibly investigated over 2011’s election violence.
To address the increasingly volatile security situation along the border area, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia reinforced the presence of their military contingents in these areas. In a joint meeting with UNOCI and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the governments further agreed to enhance cooperation, including on judicial aspects and to promote reconciliation and development. The attacks in the east of the country led to an increase of security forces and a temporary closing of the border with Ghana, which was later reopened following an intervention by UNOCI.
UNOCI and UNMIL also increased joint activities, including coordinated border patrols and enhanced exchange of information and analysis. In September, the Security Council ordered the transfer of three armed helicopters deployed in UNMIL to UNOCI to be used for operations in the border area between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. The recent increase in violence and the number of attacks in the country has prompted the mission to reexamine current threats, risks, and operational requirements for its deployment. In a letter to the Security Council in October, the Secretary-General asked the Council to defer the reduction of UNOCI’s troops until the mandated assessment of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire in early 2013.
UNMIL was deployed in October 2003 to assist in implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement that ended an internecine fourteen-year civil conflict. The mission is led by Karin Landgren, who replaced Ellen Margrethe Løj in July 2012.
In September 2012 the Security Council, through Resolution 2066, extended UNMIL’s mandate for another year, with the primary tasks of supporting the government’s efforts in strengthening peace and stability and protecting civilians. UNMIL is also mandated to support the government in moving forward the political process essential for peace consolidation—including national reconciliation, constitutional reform, and decentralization— and transitioning complete security responsibility to the Liberian National Police.
Following recommendations of the Secretary-General, the UN Security Council agreed to reduce UNMIL’s forces in three phases, from 7,952 in September 2012 to approximately 3,750 by July 2015, based on the security situation in Liberia. The first reduction phase, of 1,990 military personnel, is scheduled to take place between October 2012 and September 2013. Resolution 2066 also provides for an increase in UNMIL’s police component by three formed police units or a total of 420 personnel, bringing the authorized police strength to 1,795 officers.
On 16 January 2012, President Ellen John son Sirleaf was inaugurated for a second six-year term amid heightened political tensions, following violent clashes in the lead-up to the presidential runoff in November 2011and a boycott of the runoff by the main opposition candidate. The election highlighted the vulnerability of Liberia’s institutions and persistent societal and political divisions.
UNMIL’s drawdown is in large part driven by pressures from the international community after the largely successful completion of the 2011 election as well as budgetary constraints, with budget cuts of some $29 million for fiscal year 2012–2013.
Out of a total of six benchmarks guiding UNMIL’s transition, only one—the peaceful, credible conduct of accepted national elections—had been achieved by November 2012. Progress in the other five areas that relate to handing over security responsibilities to national authorities is slow.5The April 2012 Secretary-General’s special report on UNMIL points out that “none of the country’s security institutions is operationally independent” and that they are not “able to maintain stability without the support of UNMIL.”6
Key reform processes and national reconciliation have stalled partly due to lack of inclusive governance. As of August 2012, only 11 out of 447 persons appointed as part of the new government were not affiliated with the ruling party.7 Following President Johnson Sir leaf’s appointment of supporters and family members, including three of her sons, to government and cabinet positions, she was accused of nepotism, leading the opposition and factions of her own party to call for her resignation. In October the head of the government’s peace and reconciliation initiative and co–Nobel laureate Laymah Gbowee quit her position over concerns that the president had failed to adequately address corruption and nepotism.
In light of outstanding progress, the government and the UN agreed on a gradual approach to handing over security responsibilities to national authorities that includes geographic and functional prioritizations.8 With its stronger police component and in line with its mandate, UNMIL will increase mentoring and technical support to national police. The additional formed police units will be deployed as operational support to national institutions. This increased presence also aims to alleviate concerns among the population that the mission’s military drawdown could leave a security vacuum.
To address the volatile security situation along the border with Côte d’Ivoire, the Liberian police, military, and immigration agencies are engaged in the first joint security operation aimed at mitigating the threat from armed elements. While the operation led to the arrest of more than a dozen suspects, UNMIL in September expressed concern about reports of mercenary activities at refugee camps in southeastern Liberia. In addition to increasing its cooperation with UNOCI, UNMIL has also adopted a more robust posture, by increasing the frequency of air patrols and deploying two armed helicopters closer to the Ivorian border.
The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) was established in 2008 as a follow-on to a UN office in place since 2005. As one of the first fully integrated offices, UNIPSIL is headed by an Executive Representative of the Secretary-General (ERSG) who is also double-hatted as the Resident UN Coordinator.
UN member states viewed a successful outcome of the November 2012 presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections (the first elections conducted entirely by the government) as a key benchmark for peace consolidation in the country, on which also hinges the future transition of UNIPSIL into a UN Country Team presence. In advance of the elections, the Security Council asked the Secretary-General to deploy an interagency technical assessment mission to review prog ress made on UNIPSIL’s mandate and to provide details on a transition, drawdown, and exit strategy for UNIPSIL by 15 February 2013.
In September 2012, through Resolution 2065, the Security Council extended UNIPSIL’s mandate for six months until 31 March 2013, with a focus on providing assistance in the preparation and conduct of the elections. Resolution 2065 also mandated UNIPSIL to provide assistance for conflict prevention and mitigation efforts and support genuine and inclusive dialogue among political parties.
In February 2012 the UN Secretary-General withdrew his long-standing ERSG, Michael von der Schulenburg, amid heightened political tensions. The withdrawal took place at the request of the Sierra Leone government, which reportedly questioned Schulenburg’s impartiality. In March, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen was appointed as the new ERSG for UNIPSIL.
Since March, incidents of political violence have decreased. In May, as an outcome of a meeting co-organized by UNIPSIL, key political players and relevant institutions adopted a declaration reaffirming their commitment to political tolerance and nonviolence. The meeting also decided on a follow-up mechanism to ensure implementation of the declaration.
In preparation for the November 2012 elections, UNIPSIL helped train judges, prosecutors, police investigators, and other paralegal staff for the newly established Electoral Offenses Courts, and assisted in training 10,500 general-duty police and 2,224 personnel of the police’s Operations Support Division on election-specific issues and public order management.9
According to international observers, the 17 November elections were held in a peaceful and orderly manner amid a high voter turnout. Despite efforts to increase the role of women in politics, including by UNIPSIL, only 38 women ran for seats in parliament, compared to 538 men.10he incumbent president Ernest Bai Koroma won with more than 57 percent of the votes and was sworn into office on 23 November. His party, the All People’s Congress (APC), won the majority in parliament with 67 seats, while the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) came in second with 42 seats.
Following the announcement of the election result, SLPP presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio stated that he believed the election process was fraudulent, prompting EU election observers to voice concern about postelection unrest. Shortly after, the SLPP called on its deputies in parliament to boycott proceedings, citing the unwillingness of the National Electoral Commission to address their concerns about electoral irregularities. However, following talks between Bio and President Koroma, the SLPP called off its boycott in early December, enabling the political activities to commence.Less...
West Africa’s diverse challenges and precarious security situation call for increased coordination and cooperation between all relevant actors, including the UN system, regional organizations, and bilateral actors. As developments in the region throughout 2012 have shown, hard-won gains in peace and development are delicate and easily undone. Notes 1. The other member states of the West Africa Coast Initiative are Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. 2. MISSANG was repor Read More...
West Africa’s diverse challenges and precarious security situation call for increased coordination and cooperation between all relevant actors, including the UN system, regional organizations, and bilateral actors. As developments in the region throughout 2012 have shown, hard-won gains in peace and development are delicate and easily undone.
1. The other member states of the West Africa Coast Initiative are Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
2. MISSANG was reportedly ordered to withdraw by the head of the armed forces, General Antonio Indjai.
3. Six further individuals were added to the Sanctions Committee on 18 July 2012.
4. These demands include the release of Gbagbo and associates from detention, the lifting of arrest warrants against those in exile, and the unblocking of frozen assets.
5. For more on the transition benchmarks, see United Nations, Special Report of the SecretaryGeneral on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UN Doc. S/2012/230, 16 April 2012, para. 29.
6. Ibid., paras. 46 and 35.
7. United Nations, Twenty-fourth Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UN Doc. S/2012/641, 15 August 2012, para. 4.
8. A first security handover took place in Robertsport, western Liberia, in October 2012.
9. United Nations, Ninth Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone, UN Doc. S/2012/679, 31 August 2012, para. 4.
10. “Landmark Sierra Leone Election Sees High Turnout,” CBC News, 17 November 2012, http:// www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/11/17/sierra-leone-election.html.Less...