West Africa—Tension and fear has taken the better of nations in West Africa, following the sanctions laid against Mali by the Economic Community of West African States.
Western diplomats from both Europe and the United States signaled a warning on Friday that international efforts have so far failed to counter factors that are driving young people to take up arms and called for increased cooperation with countries in the region.
This comes at a time when the countries in the region are experiencing increased cases of terrorism.
“The rise of violent extremism and the worsening of the humanitarian situation in the Sahel and the wider West African region is threatening the future of the entire African continent and of all of us,” European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis told the virtual conference. “This is as high stakes as it gets.”
Diplomats from the US described the situation a delicate.
“Despite a decade of robust international investments, the region continues to trend in the wrong direction,” said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Gonzales.
“Armed groups continue to expand their presence as well as their capabilities and their violence,” Gonzales added. “We need to address the underlying drivers of insecurity more holistically in order to turn the tide.”
The worst of situations has been in Mali, where terrorists linked to groups like Islamic State and al-Qaida have continued to make inroads, and where the military government, which seized power in August 2020, postponed elections scheduled for this February until 2026.
The European Union announced on Friday that it would follow suit with its own sanctions against Mali’s interim government.
“Despite all the warnings that we made to the Malian authorities, we see no sign of progress on the part of these authorities,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said following a meeting with the EU defense minister in the French city of Brest.
“The risk that the situation in this country Mali continues to deteriorate is evident,” he said. “We will follow the situation closely.”