UN News Centre – Africa
24 April 2014 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated the people and Government of Algeria on the peaceful holding of recent presidential elections and encouraged them to work together to strengthen the democratic process in the country.
Incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika reportedly won last week’s poll, garnering over 80 per cent of the votes cast in the North African nation.
Mr. Ban, who has closely followed the elections, had deployed – at the request of the Government – a three-member panel of experts to the country to follow the electoral process and keep him abreast of the latest developments.
“The Secretary-General wishes to congratulate the people and the Government of Algeria for the overall peaceful manner in which the presidential elections were held,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“He encourages the Government of Algeria and all political parties in the country to work together in an inclusive and peaceful manner to maintain stability and strengthen the democratic process in Algeria.”
Mr. Ban also reiterated the UN’s continued commitment to supporting Algeria’s efforts toward democratic reforms as well as sustainable socio-economic development.
23 April 2014 Calling for continued cooperation with regional organizations to support Mali’s steady efforts towards peace and stability through inclusive talks, a senior United Nations official today told the Security Council that despite progress, the security situation in the country’s restive north remains “very fragile” with increased activity by terrorist groups.
“The window of opportunity to consolidate and sustain peace and stability in Mali stands wide open, but may also close unless sustained commitment by all stakeholders is upheld, with the support of the international community,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bert Koenders told the 15-member Council.
The head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) noted the importance of creating synergies between the UN, the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and other key partners.
Mr. Koenders’ briefing follows Mali’s establishment of a new National Assembly, as well as the gradual return of public administration to the northern part of the country, where recent shellings in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal have nevertheless raised security concerns.
Rooting out extremism, he said, relies on winning the hearts and minds of the local population through internationally supported national efforts “to ensure the establishment of an effective and efficient administration to implement critical rule of law, human rights and recovery programs that foster reconciliation and community cohesion.”
Referring to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the situation in the West African nation, Mr. Koenders noted the importance of active participation in the peace efforts by all sectors of Malian society, among them women, young people and civil society.
“The peace train has finally left and the station and it cannot turn back,” the senior UN official said.
Addressing journalists after the briefing, Mr. Koenders said the Security Council had noted the political progress made in the past months, including informal UN-facilitated discussions between the Government and armed groups, which are contributing to preparing the ground for an inclusive political dialogue.
He noted that during today’s briefing, the Council, as Mr. Ban had done in the report, underlined that the inclusive political process should start as soon as possible based on a consensual roadmap and timeline.
“With this roadmap, all parties must sit together now without preconditions,” he said. “It is also important that the armed groups rise to the occasion and participate.”
Speaking after a full morning of meetings and closed-door consultations, Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, Council President for the month of April, echoed Mr. Koenders, calling on the Malian Government and the armed groups in northern Mali to urgently agree on the roadmap.
Reading a presidential statement, Ms. Ogwu said the negotiation process must be “inclusive, credible” and “open to all communities of the north of Mali” with the goal of securing a political solution to the crisis and long-term peace and stability, while respecting the sovereignty of the Malian state.
She and the other members of the Council welcomed the Government’s recent appointment of a high-level representative to participate in the negotiations.
The Council also noted that authorities have officially started the process of cantonment, ultimately leading to a veritable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.
“Malians have a historic chance to overcome the crisis and to achieve a lasting, social and political contract with the north,” Mr. Koenders said referencing Mr. Ban. “They must grasp this opportunity with both hands and the UN will accompany them all the way.”
Returning to the security situation in the country, Mr. Koenders strongly condemned the reported killing of French hostage, Gilberto Rodrigues Leal, who had been kidnapped by armed men in November 2012.
The senior UN official also reiterated his call against the use of improvised explosive devices (IED) after initial reports today that a vehicle operated by MINUSMA personnel hit an IED, leaving the staff injured in a level 2 hospital in the country.
To combat the insecurity, the UN Mission has taken a series of measures, including strengthening its military patrols to 800 a month, Mr. Koenders said, as well as deployment of five new helicopters which will serve as “the ears and the eyes” of the Mission.
In the northern regions where inter-community clashes have been recorded involving Tuareg and Peuhl communities, UN human rights teams are also being deployed to establish the facts and dissuade further violence.
On a wider scale, the challenges in Mali are parts of the problems faced by the Sahel region and require regional support. IN that regard, Mr. Koenders noted the importance of the UN Integrated Strategy put forward by Romano Prodi, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel.
It aims to bolster governance, security, humanitarian requirements and development, while enhancing coordination in four spheres between the Governments of the region, between members of the international community, reaching out and listening to the people of the Sahel, and within the UN system.
These topics are likely to be included on the agenda for next week’s international conference on Mali, due to be held in Bamako. The conference is a follow-up to last year’s Brussels meeting where the UN had stressed the importance of a dual trek political and military solution to stabilize the country.
23 April 2014 The top United Nations envoy in Somalia today called on the country’s international partners to boost support to aid peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts there, while reaffirming that the world body has no plans to withdraw amid attacks by Al-Shabaab militants.
“It’s a moment of great new opportunities but also some significant new challenges, and I think it’s important that the international community and partners maintain their interest in Somalia and increase, if at all possible, some of the resources,” Nicholas Kay told reporters in New York.
Mr. Kay, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), stressed that increased resources are vital for humanitarian efforts, for building up the Somalia National Army (SNA) and for the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.
Regarding reports that the UN may decrease its presence in the country amid attacks by Al-Shabaab, the envoy noted that the group has targeted the UN in the past and he suspects that that it will continue to do so.
“The UN has no intention to withdraw from Somalia,” he stated. “Quite the opposite, we are expanding our presence on the ground. As we speak, we have more UN people and more UN agencies present in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somali. I fully expect that that expansion of presence will continue. Our resolve is very, very strong.”
Mr. Kay, who is at UN Headquarters along with AMISOM chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif for discussions with the Security Council, noted that the world body has a “unique collaboration” with the AU in Somalia, and “an extremely successful one” to date.
“We are at a time of some significant and quite remarkable success being made on the ground, particularly on the military campaign against Al-Shabaab,” he stated.
The SNA and AMISOM have been pursuing a renewed offensive against Al-Shabaab, which in 2011 was forced to retreat from the capital. The offensive, the most significant and geographically extensive military advance since AMISOM was created in 2007, has resulted in the Federal Government regaining access to 10 towns.
“It is giving us the opportunity now to support the Federal Government to provide better lives for the people in these areas, 10 towns of which now have been made accessible,” said Mr. Kay. “And it is a significant opportunity to disable and reduce the capabilities significantly of Al-Shabaab to pose terrorist threats in Somalia and in the region.”
At the same time, new challenges have arisen, the envoy noted. While the Government has control of 10 new towns across a geographically wide area, access is a challenge given that Al-Shabaab is blockading many of the road routes to the towns. As such, there is a great need for air assets, particularly helicopters, to reach these areas. AMISOM currently has no helicopters.
Mr. Kay also cited a potential humanitarian challenge due to three factors: the blocking by Al-Shabaab of land routes needed to supply food to towns; the possible impact of the military offensive on planting and eventual harvesting; and unknown climatic conditions.
Somalia had a terrible famine over two years ago in which half a million people died, the Special Representative recalled. “We are not in that situation yet, but we are watching very carefully the evolution of the situation over the next couple of months,” he said, stressing the need for greater humanitarian funding. To date only 12 per cent of the $933 million sought for humanitarian operations in the country has been provided.
“If we were to face an acute food problem in the next few months, we do not have the money in the kitty to respond.”