The recent flare-up of violence in Côte d'Ivoire - where United Nations and French peacekeepers are monitoring a buffer zone separating the government-controlled south and the rebel-held north - could spread across West Africa and plunge the region back into conflict, a senior United Nations official based in Dakar warned today.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah released a statement voicing alarm "at the potential spillover of the crisis on neighbouring countries with new cross-border movements of combatants, small arms and mercenaries within and from outside the region."
Since 2002 when the conflict broke out in Côte d'Ivoire, the economy of much of the sub-region has gravely deteriorated as a result of the disruption to trade, transportation, and monetary transactions.
Mr. Ould-Abdallah, who is the UN Special Representative for West Africa, praised regional efforts to contain the crisis, but warned that it is now imposing an additional burden on the limited resources of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), while further tarnishing the image of West Africa as a region of chronic instability.
Those responsible for the recent escalation are doing "incalculable damage not only to the future of their country, but to the whole of West Africa," he said.
"How can we hope to attract foreign investment, essential for creating the jobs that so many millions of West African youths desperately need, if some of our leaders continue to pursue the logic of war and vendetta year after year?" the envoy asked.
"Future generations will judge some of today's leaders extremely harshly for once again holding back the advancement of our societies."