Intercommunal violence, terrorist attacks ignite tensions in West Africa – Report

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Intercommunal violence and persistent attacks by extremists continue to undermine peace and security in the region, UN’s top official in West Africa warned the Security Council on Thursday.

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) is calling for sustained engagement with all partners to urgently advance a holistic approach to peace.

Mr.Chambas said that despite “intense and sustained” efforts by concerned countries, violent extremists continue to attack security forces and civilians alike, with children recruited into fighting in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

Presenting his latest report, the UNOWAS chief described security conditions as “extremely volatile”.  In Burkina Faso alone, as of June, 921,000 people have been forced to flee, representing a 92% rise over 2019 figures.

In Mali, nearly 240,000 people are internally displaced, 54% them women, while in Niger, 489,000 people were forced to flee.  This includes internally displaced persons, Nigerian and Malian refugees.  In Nigeria, 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance in 2020.

As national and multinational forces intensify counter-terrorism operations, some communities have organized volunteer groups and self-defence militias for protection.  Human rights groups have raised concerns over alleged abuses by these militias, as well as by security and defence forces.

“The growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence cannot be overemphasized”, Mr.Chambas said.

“Terrorists continue to exploit latent ethnic animosities and the absence of the State in peripheral areas to advance their agenda.”

He urged the United Nations to remain committed to working with all partners, building national and institutional capacity, improving community resilience, and advocating for good governance, political inclusion, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.

Mr. Chambas said COVID-19 is only amplifying these conflict drivers, with grave implications for peace and security.  Its disproportionate effect on women and girls has placed them at increased risk of femicide and sexual violence. (Source: UN News)

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