UNHCR BOSS ISSUES WARNING ON MALI
Says refugee crisis is more than an African issue, urges greater action from donors
Courtesy of UNifeed
On a day overshadowed by a General Assembly vote on the ongoing violent conflict in Syria, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, reminded the international community that significant political and social issues remain simmering in other regions; most desperately in Northern Africa’s Sahel.
“We are witnessing in the Sahel a dramatic humanitarian situation,” he claimed in a press conference at UN headquarters in Geneva. “I would like to make a very strong appeal, not only for HCR operations, but a very strong appeal for the international community to come together and to support the Malian refugees and support the host countries and the host communities, many of them living in as desperate economic situation as the refugees themselves.”
Since a group of Tuareg rebels overtook the Malian capital city of Bamako earlier this year, the political situation within the mostly desert nation has remained tenuous and characterized by a lack of stability and widespread failures of government programs. About 260,000 individuals have fled the country, flooding neighbors like Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger, which are all struggling to provide for these refugees.
"If proper humanitarian assistance is not provided, and if a political solution is not found, the risk of this conflict to go far beyond Mali is, in my opinion, enormous," Mr. Guterres noted.
The crisis in Mali remains very much an international issue, even outside of Northern African. Expert analysts have suggested that country, awash with weaponry used to depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya last year, has been targeted by al-Qaeda and other extremist networks as a potential safe haven. Chaos within Mali could facilitate this.
"There is a very serious threat for peace and security, not only for the whole region, but, in my opinion, with global implications,” said Mr. Guterres. “So it's not only a question of solidarity, it's a question of enlightened self-interest for the international community, even here in Europe, to be committed to the solution of this crisis and be committed to support the people in need.”