posted on Thu 26 Jan 2012 12:42 PM
Briefing on the Impact of the Libya Crisis on the Sahel Region

This afternoon (Thursday, 26 January), the Council is scheduled to be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, on the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel. (The Sahel covers Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Senegal and parts of North Africa, including southern Algeria and southern Libya.) The Secretary-General sent a UN inter-agency assessment mission to the region in December 2011 to assess the threats arising from the Libyan crisis in the region as well as the national, regional and international capacities to respond. A press statement on the issue, drafted by France, has been circulated but at press time it was unclear if it would be agreed on in time to be released at the end of the meeting.

The report of the mission to the Sahel, which Council members received on 17 January, covers a number of issues that might be of concern to Council members. Among them is the return of hundreds of thousands of migrants to Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania, countries already facing economic problems, including food scarcity. The report also suggests that huge caches of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles and Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), previously in the Libyan arsenal, now proliferate in the Sahel, possibly among terrorist groups, posing significant threats to these countries.

The report also documents the drop in tourism in the region, due in part to the increasing strength and reach of terrorist groups. In reaction, some of the countries have increased their defence budgets, under-cutting spending on food security and other social welfare programs. Terrorist groups predating the Libya crisis are reported to have been significantly strengthened and two new groups have emerged.

It seems that the draft press statement circulated by France, is likely to express concern about the humanitarian and security situation, particularly in the context of longstanding challenges. These include terrorist activities, underdevelopment, and the recurrent food crises, which are now exacerbated by the influx of returning migrants, drug trafficking and transnational organised crime in West Africa.

It appears that some Council members would like the press statement to acknowledge that NATO’s intervention, sanctioned by resolution 1973, played a role in exacerbating already existing problems, as well as the AU’s contribution in bringing the problems to the attention of the Council. There are also members who believe that the report may have covered areas that are not necessarily directly related to the Libya crisis, such as drug trafficking and transnational crime, and may be reluctant to have those issues reflected in the press statement.