The U.N. secretary-general urged the international community Wednesday to, in his words, “change the narrative” about Africa. Antonio Guterres said countries should cooperate more with the continent to recognize its vast potential and prevent and manage conflicts there.
Guterres told a Security Council debate about enhancing peace and security in Africa that the African Union and the United Nations have a shared interest in neutralizing conflicts before they escalate and managing them effectively when they do happen.
“Enhancing African capacities is essentially both in the context of our collective response to international peace and security challenges as well as for the self-reliance of the African continent,” said Guterres, who noted the challenge posed by terrorism and extremist groups, including Somalia-based al-Shabab.
“It is my deep belief that with enhanced support to AMISOM, the African Union Force, and predicable funding, along with a coordinated effort to build the Somali National Army and police forces, al-Shabab can be defeated,” said Guterres.
Guterres welcomed the initiative by the Group of Five Sahel countries to create a joint force to fight terrorism, as well as the Lake Chad Basin Multinational Joint Task Force, which is battling Boko Haram.
Smail Chergui, the commissioner for peace and security of the African Union, told the Council that African troops face some of the most challenging situations without adequate equipment and financial resources.
He urged more investment in conflict prevention and management tools, as well as in countering the threat and spread of violent extremism.
The continent is also coping with potential famine situations in several countries, none of which are solely the product of drought. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the actors responsible for conflicts which have led to these crises.
“These famines are a sign of a collective failure and any effective response must begin with the nations of Africa themselves,” said Haley. “AU member states must ramp up their response to this crisis.”
On July 8, the United States announced an additional $446 million in humanitarian assistance to people facing food crises in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, bringing this fiscal year’s total to $1.4 billion.