Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa (S/2012/977)
1 . In a letter dated 20 December 2010 (S/2010/661), the President of the Security Council informed me that the members of the Council had agreed to extend the mandate of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) until 31 December 2013 and requested me to report on the implementation of the revised mandate of UNOWA every six months.
2 . The present report covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2012. It provides an overview of national, cross-cutting and cross-border developments in West Africa and outlines the activities undertaken by UNOWA in the areas of preventive diplomacy, early warning and capacity-building to address emerging threats and challenges to regional peace and stability. It also outlines the Office’s efforts to enhance synergies with, inter alia, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union and the African Union, in the promotion of peace and stability in the subregion.
II. Developments and trends in West Africa
3 . Since the issuance of my previous report, of 29 June 2012 (S/2012/510), the political landscape in West Africa has continued to be dominated by the crises in Mali and the Sahel, as well as by the post-coup developments in Guinea-Bissau. The crisis in Mali has continued to have an impact on the political and security landscape, including on the humanitarian community operating in the region. Mali’s neighbours, particularly Mauritania and Niger, remain at risk given their porous borders with the northern part of the country. These risks were exemplified by the kidnapping of six non-governmental organization staff in Niger in October and of a French citizen, on 21 November, near Mali’s border with Mauritania and Senegal. In Niger, the outbreak of the Malian crisis has had a significant impact on the already fragile economic and security situation in the country. Meanwhile, the leaders of the subregion have played a central role in mobilizing the international community to address the growing insecurity in the subregion.
4 . General elections held on 17 November in Sierra Leone were conducted in a peaceful environment and recognized as credible, free and fair by international and national observers. The incumbent President, Ernest Bai Koroma, was declared the winner with 58.7 per cent of the votes. However, the main opposition party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), alleged that there had been massive and systematic electoral malpractices and, on 30 November, filed a complaint in the Supreme Court challenging the election of President Koroma. On 3 December, as a sign of reconciliation and mutual desire for political dialogue, President Koroma and the SLPP leadership issued a joint statement in which the two sides agreed to work together in the interest of peace and stability in the country. Meanwhile, on 2 December, legislative and municipal elections were held in Burkina Faso, in a free, peaceful and transparent environment.
5 . The smooth transfer of power that occurred in Ghana with the election of Vice-President John Dramani Mahama as President following the death of President John Atta Mills on 24 July, demonstrated the political maturity of Ghanaian democratic institutions. This enabled the country to conclude the electoral process leading to free, peaceful and transparent legislative and presidential elections on 7 December. The election results, as announced by the electoral commission on 9 December, declared incumbent President Mahama the winner with 50.7 per cent of the votes. However, on 11 December, the major opposition party, the New Patriotic Party, declared its intention to contest the results in court, despite declarations from domestic, regional and international observers commending Ghana for the free and fair conduct of the elections.
6 . Despite these positive developments, concerns remain in some countries in the subregion. The polarized political situation in Togo continued to be characterized by a climate of mistrust between the Government and the opposition. In Guinea, legislative elections that were scheduled for October 2012 were delayed due to a disagreement between the Government and opposition parties, mainly over the Independent National Electoral Commission and modalities for the review of the electoral register.
In Mauritania, the absence of an electoral timetable for the legislative and municipal elections, coupled with continued calls from a large group of political parties for an inclusive dialogue, fuelled an ongoing climate of political tension. The tensions were further exacerbated by the President’s absence from the country, from 14 October to 24 November, for medical treatment in Paris after he was wounded when his convoy was shot at in the outskirts of Nouakchott. In the Gambia, the decision of the Government to execute nine inmates on death row, including two Senegalese nationals, triggered tensions with Senegal that have since subsided.