Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this High Level Meeting on the Sahel region.
There is no doubt that the longstanding problems in the Sahel region have been exacerbated and complicated by the crisis in Libya and the proliferation of weapons in the region.
The international community should not shirk its responsibility in assisting the people and governments of the region to deal with these challenges. These include increased levels of drugs trade, terrorist activity and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
These interrelated issues require a unified and comprehensive international approach providing the region with the necessary means to respond to both development and security challenges.
South Africa reiterates its strong support for cooperation between the UN, the AU and sub-regional organisations such as ECOWAS and ECCAS.
This is the only way to effectively address these challenges.
Of the countries in the Sahel region, sadly Mali and Niger are facing political instability which is causing massive displacement of the population.
The situation is worsened by the food crisis which is affecting the entire region.
South Africa rejects unconstitutional changes of government and secessionist tendencies.
There is, therefore, an urgent need to resolve the problems in Mali and Niger, including re-establishing constitutional order in Mali and reasserting state authority over its northern territory.
South Africa encourages the parties in Mali to pursue the path of political dialogue in order to establish peace and security in the country.
We strongly believe that a political solution is the only way that lasting peace can be achieved.
South Africa recognizes that the situation in Sahel is a daunting one.
We express support for the appointment of the Special Envoy for the Sahel and for development of the proposed strategy to deal with the situation in Sahel.
We welcome the initiative of President Blaise Campaore and ECOWAS in their efforts to bring peace and stability to the region.
South Africa will provide the necessary support to the transitional process in Mali in this regard and remain ready to assist wherever possible.
The deployment of an ECOWAS stabilisation force in Mali should assist in countering the inroads that Ansar Dine and other extremist regional armed groups have made in Mali and the increased collaboration between these groups and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The amassing of arms and ammunition by these groups and their increased levels of activity, including human rights violations are a cause for concern.
The instability in the Sahel region is compounded by the drought that has plagued Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Western Sahara. It is important for the international community to assist the affected countries to counter the rising levels of hunger and malnutrition.
The violation and senseless destruction of the museums and other critical parts of the historical heritage sites, including the holy shrines, infrastructure and manuscripts in Timbuktu cannot be condoned.
Accordingly, South Africa remains concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and has in this regard committed to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected countries.
I thank you.