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Fresh attacks, dire conditions plague Africa's Sahel, Security Council hears

Despitea deteriorating security situationand the reverberating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional troops deployed to combat terrorists in Africa's Sahel regionhavescaled up the tempo of their operations in recent months, efforts that must be matched by a spirit of solidarity among their global partners, the senior UN peacekeepingofficial told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, tolddelegatesthat the fight against armed groups in the Sahel has intensified since late 2020. He described the Joint Force first deployed in 2017 by the "Group of Five" (G-5) Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – as a vital part of the security responsein the region.

Countriesof the Sahel regionhave seen anescalation of attacksby armed extremist groups in recent years, striking frequently at security forces and civilians going about their daily lives.

Asingle attackby gunmenon 2 January left more than 100 people deadin a village in western Niger. On 21 April, PresidentIdrissDébyItnoof Chad,was killed after sustaining injuries in clashes with rebel groups.

Regional troops deployed through the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, as well as personnel with the UNStabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the French-led OperationBarkhane, are struggling to stem the violence.

Describing efforts to respond to the 'ever more challenging' environment, Mr. Lacroix said today that the Joint Force also faces major challengesinits operational and logistical capacities, such as transport and providing supplies to its troops.

Despite those challenges, the Joint Force and its partners have made some important strides against extremist groups in recent months.

Launched inAugust2020,thecounter-terroristoperationknown as"Sama 2"continuedthis year."Sama 3"– buoyed by the deployment of an additional battalion from Chad – was launched in March.Meanwhile, the Joint Force continued to enhance its operational capabilities.

Strengthening theJoint Force'spolice component will be an importantnextstep,allowingfor better oversight over military operations and linkingthem more closely to State-building, human right compliance and justice sector reform efforts.

In addition, Mr. Lacroixwelcomed theG-5 Sahel'sdemonstration of commitmentto investigating and prosecuting serious allegations of sexual violence,reportedly committed by some of its troops.

Referring to anassessment of the support providedby MINUSMAto the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, which was conducted at the Council's request, Mr. Lacroix said itfound the predictability of funding to be a source of concern.

"It is essential that [the Joint Force] receives the assistance it requires to carry out its mandated tasks,"he said, noting that the current support modelpresents operational challenges andleaves little room for flexibility.

Against that backdrop, he said the United Nations, alongside the G-5 Sahel and other partners, continues to call for more predictable funding. Questions about how best to finance the Joint Force, as well as other peace operations across the African continent, have been ongoing among Member States.

"Faced with the situation in the Sahel, the international community must be motivated by a shared responsibility to act…in a spirit of solidarity with the populations of the region," hestressed.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN News.
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