Chinese envoy says intercommunal violence major challenge for West Africa

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UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — China’s UN envoy on Monday underscored intercommunal violence as a major challenge faced by West Africa and its increased linkage with terrorism.

At a Security Council meeting on West Africa, China’s Permanent Representative to the UN Zhang Jun expounded the intercommunal violence afflicting the region.

In West Africa, he said, seasonal migration leads to increased competition for resources such as land and water, resulting in frequent conflicts between farmers and herders.

Moreover, he noted, differences in ethnicity and religion, climate change and prevalence of weapons, among other factors, have exacerbated the problems.

More worrying is the fact that in recent years, terrorism and extremism took advantage of these problems as their opportunity, he added.

Giving examples, Zhang said that the Boko Haram and the Islamic State have continued to grow in West Africa, and extremist militants have returned and used conflict to launch attacks, thus posing unprecedented threats to regional peace and stability.

He further pointed out that the linkage between intercommunal violence and terrorism has increased, which he said needs to be addressed in a holistic manner by the international community.

“We need to accelerate the development in West Africa to eliminate the breeding ground for intercommunal violence,” he appealed, stressing extreme poverty and lack of development are the root causes.

He proposed that economic social development should be promoted with full force to increase investment and trade in Africa, so as to eradicate poverty.

Also, he said education and employment opportunities should be provided, especially for the youth, and that the right to development of different communities should be guaranteed with equal public services.

Economic development should also enhance the capacity of countries in the region to adapt to climate change and give them resources and means to improve governance and to protect different communities, he stressed.

The Chinese envoy said China is actively helping regional countries to engage in infrastructure development to strengthen connectivity. “We have also provided education and vocational training opportunities to young people in Africa, through scholarships for their study in China, and the establishment of education and training centers, among others.”

In addition, Zhang urged the international community to promote political settlement of hotspot issues in West Africa and settlement of disputes through peaceful means.

In this regard, “dialogue on an equal footing among different civilizations and religions should be encouraged for their harmonious coexistence,” he said. “Regional countries should be assisted in enhancing their counterterrorism and de-radicalization capacities.”

Zhang stressed that the focus should be put on settling such prominent issues as the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, the diversification of financing channels for terrorist organizations, and the convergence of terrorist organizations and organized crime.

Also, he said support should be provided to West African countries to strengthen border control and law enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, and other practical cooperation.

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