Published: January 24, 2020
WEF 2020: Libya violence further destabilising Sahel, warns UN's Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a session during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: Markus Schreiber/AP Johannesburg – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that Libya’s ongoing civil war is threatening to spill into and further destabilise the restive Sahel and Lake Chad regions. "Libya has been a centre, a cancer for arms export and fighters export and the most worrying impact is of course with the Sahel and Lake Chad. And more and more these things are interlinked," Guterres told Al Jazeera in Davos, Switzerland in a Thursday interview. "What we are having with the Sahel and Lake Chad is a war with terrorist organisations that we are not winning. Terrorism is spreading. It is now threatening the countries of the coast - Ivory Coast, Ghana, Beni." The Sahel region, comprising Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger, has become a hotbed of extremism with various militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. “The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN special representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the UN Security Council earlier in January.
“The humanitarian consequences are alarming," he said.
The UNOWAS chief elaborated on terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger, which have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.
“Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States."
He also flagged that the number of deaths in Burkina Faso jumped from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 last year.
Displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries.
To counter the violence the military arm of the G5 Sahel or G5S, an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in West Africa, was formed in 2014 with economic and military support from France.
African News Agency (ANA) source