West Africa: At UN Debate, Nigerian Leader Praises UN, Regional Roles in Maintaining Peace

The United Nations' urgent assistance is crucial in order to bring peace and security to West Africa, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said today at the General Assembly's high-level debate, while also acknowledging the role played by regional organizations in stemming the continent's violence.

"The overall security situation in the West African sub-region should continue to be a matter of interest and concern to the rest of the international community," President Jonathan declared n his address to the General Debate of the Assembly's 67th session, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.

"Although ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] is taking measures to address the situation in Mali, particularly in the north, the urgent assistance of the United Nations and the support of other partners will be needed to build on recent gains to secure peace and stability in Mali and across the sub-region," he stated, adding that West Africa could "ill-afford renewed insurgency."

Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali in January. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d'état in March, have led over 250,000 Malians to flee to neighbouring countries, with 174,000 Malians estimated to be internally displaced.

President Jonathan noted that Nigeria had committed itself to the attainment of regional peace and security and was doing so in close coordination with the UN, African Union and ECOWAS partners, particularly in Mali, where Nigeria and ECOWAS are working in concert to prevent the country's conflict from spilling over its borders.

In addition, he also highlighted Nigeria's assistance to the Transitional Government in Guinea-Bissau as it works towards national reconciliation and the organization of credible elections following its unconstitutional change of government earlier this year.

Turning his focus to the issue of regional cooperation, the Nigerian leader emphasized that it had been "a key factor" in tackling West Africa's security challenges, singling out Nigeria's bilateral agreements with neighbouring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

"We are confident that these measures will stem the flow and access to small arms and light weapons, which have indeed become Africa's weapons of mass destruction and the most potent source of instability," he added.

Along with President Jonathan, scores of the world's heads of State and government and other high-level officials are presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly's General Debate, which ends on 1 October.

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