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.
Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Officer-in-Charge of UNOWAS, said this on Tuesday in New York while presenting the latest UNOWAS report covering trends and developments over the past six months.
Ms Biha said that 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.”
The UN official, however, 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,’’ she said.
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,” she added.
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.
Ms Biha reported 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.