January 11, (THEWILL) – The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) is collaborating with presidential candidates and other stakeholders in Nigeria, to ensure peaceful elections in the country.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Officer-in-Charge of UNOWAS, Ms Giovanie Biha, said this on Tuesday, in New York, while presenting the latest UNOWAS report covering trends and developments over the past six months.
Biha said the office had also witnessed the signing of a landmark Peace Accord among political parties in Nigeria, to promote peaceful elections.
“In Kaduna State, in December 2022, the Mission supported the first of six State-level stakeholders fora to promote peaceful elections. In Benin, peaceful parliamentary elections were held just two days ago,” she said.
According to her, although West Africa and the Sahel continue to face unprecedented security challenges, it is still “a land of immense opportunities”.
Biha urged ambassadors to continue to support a strategy centred on building resilience, promoting good governance, and strengthening peace and security.
“Despite efforts by national security forces and international partners, insecurity has again deteriorated in large parts of the region.
“Operations by armed groups, violent extremists and criminal networks forced the closure of more than 10,000 schools, with millions of children affected, and some 7,000 health centres.
“These non-state groups are fighting among themselves for supremacy and control of resources, she said, which is pushing States to the margin and causing untold misery to millions, who have fled elsewhere to safety.
“Indeed, the central Sahel continues to face multidimensional challenges, unprecedented levels of security and humanitarian challenges, socio-political instability, further compounded by the impact of climate change, and food insecurity which was exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine.
“At the same time, countries along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea have also seen an increase in attacks against their territories, threatening transport routes to landlocked nations further north,” she said.
On UNOWAS activities, including its efforts to promote political consensus and to ensure a level playing field ahead of elections this year in countries such as Nigeria, Biha said, the “Office has been working with the West African economic bloc ECOWAS and other UN entities, to contribute to conflict resolution, both at the regional and local levels, including among farming and herding communities in northern Benin.
“Relatedly, UNOWAS also worked with youth and women’s groups to promote conflict-sensitive best practices on climate change adaptation. These findings were brought to the COP27 UN climate conference in Egypt in November 2022.
“In Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, peace caravans supported by the United Nations have concluded their journey through the respective countries, providing spaces for effective intercommunal dialogue along their way.
“In the wake of the September 2022 coup in Burkina Faso, and another in Guinea a year earlier, UNOWAS has welcomed agreements on the length of political transitions.
“UNOWAS will remain actively committed to the assessment and follow-up mechanism agreed between Burkina Faso and ECOWAS and in the operationalisation of the transition timeline in Guinea.
“The UN system will have to continue providing support to the countries concerned by focusing on responding to the grievances that led to those coups taking place.”