Security Council Demands Immediate Halt to All Attacks by Lord’s Resistance Army In Central Africa, Especially on Civilians, Insisting on Disarming Combatants
Security Council Demands Immediate Halt to All Attacks by Lord’s Resistance Army In Central Africa, Especially on Civilians, Insisting on Disarming Combatants
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6657th Meeting (AM)
Security Council Demands Immediate Halt to All Attacks by Lord’s Resistance Army
In Central Africa, Especially on Civilians, Insisting on Disarming Combatants
Given Viciousness of Attacks, Military Operations by Affected States Should
Be Intelligence-Driven, Ensure Containment, Not Dispersal, of LRA, Council Hears
Strongly condemning ongoing attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in parts of central Africa, the Security Council today, taking up two reports on the region, demanded an immediate end to all attacks by that armed group, particularly those on civilians, urged the release of all abductees and insisted that all elements of the group surrender and disarm.
In a statement (document S/PRST/2011/21) read by the Council president for the month, João Maria Cabral of Portugal, the 15-member body reiterated its grave concern at the atrocities committed by the LRA, which had serious humanitarian and human rights consequences, including the displacement of more than 440,000 people across the region.
The Council condemned the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence and abductions. Noting that more than 12,000 combatants and abductees had left LRA’s ranks and been integrated and reunited with their families, it also encouraged all remaining fighters to leave the group’s ranks and take advantage of reintegration support.
Commending important efforts undertaken by the militaries of the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Uganda to address the threat posed by the LRA, the Council urged those militaries to coordinate their efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony and other senior LRA leaders.
The Council commended further the Secretary-General’s report on the LRA and the efforts made by the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in coordination with the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) to engage United Nations missions in the LRA-affected areas.
Given the viciousness of LRA attacks over the years, said Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOCA, military operations conducted by the affected Member States should be intelligence-driven and ensure the containment rather than the dispersal of LRA elements, in order to maximize their impact. He introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas pursuant to a Security Council press statement (document S/2011/693) and the first report of the Secretary-General on the activities of UNOCA (document S/2011/704).
He said that the existence of a regional architecture for peace and security was a favourable factor and UNOCA was already generating a new momentum and creating strong expectations for a more robust approach to dealing with the challenges confronting the subregion, and the subregional authorities had the political will needed to collectively address the challenges in Central Africa.
Emphasizing the alarming regional dimension to the LRA attacks, Tete Antonio, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said countries affected by the armed group had been consulted, with the aim of appointing a Special Envoy for the LRA, and a planning team had developed a mission blueprint for operational procedures and for finalizing the strategy for protection of civilians.
The regional cooperation initiative was a major action, he felt, which gave a new impetus to current efforts, and it was imperative to strengthen mobilization of support by the international community for future action.
“Peace has no price,” said General Louis Sylvain Goma, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), leading the call in the Council for the international community’s increased support to tackle the LRA threat. He underscored the need to bolster training, with a view to the role armed forces could play in a concerted effort to combat the armed group.
Highlighting the United States’ commitment of military personnel to work with the affected States, as well as with the African Union and the United Nations to make a final push to end the long-standing problem, its representative said the LRA was one of the most brutal terrorist organizations on the planet. He encouraged the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, subregional organizations and affected States, to encourage LRA defections.
Military means, however, were not the only solution to the LRA, said the representative of the Russian Federation. An across-the-board approach was needed, including programmes to demobilize, repatriate and reintegrate LRA combatants. In the context of military operations aimed at neutralizing the LRA, civilian protection deserved priority attention.
The recent involvement of France and the United States had already shown positive effects in the region, said the representative of the Central African Republic. However, he would be even more pleased if other partners would join ranks in that just fight. Commitment of forces and resources was needed to act together to prevent the LRA from carrying out crimes with impunity, he said.
Around the table, Council members were forceful in urging fulfilment of mandates, including that of UNOCA, to address the common issues facing the region, including piracy, arms smuggling and organized crime. South Africa’s delegate said UNOCA would be central in rising to those and other challenges in a coordinated way to address development and security concerns, among them, the LRA.
Additional statements were made by the representatives of Gabon, United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, Nigeria, Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Lebanon, China and Portugal.
The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 12:45 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2011/21 reads as follows:
“The Security Council strongly condemns the ongoing attacks carried out by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in parts of central Africa, which pose a continuing threat to regional security. The Council reiterates its grave concern at the atrocities committed by the LRA, which have serious humanitarian and human rights consequences, including the displacement of over 440,000 people across the region. The Council remains deeply concerned that its previous calls for the LRA to cease its attacks have not been heeded.
“The Security Council strongly condemns the continued violations of international humanitarian law and the abuses of human rights by the LRA. The Security Council condemns further the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence, and abductions. The Council demands an immediate end to all attacks by the LRA, particularly those on civilians, urges LRA leaders to release all those abducted, and insists that all LRA elements put an end to such practices, and surrender and disarm.
“The Security Council encourages the remaining LRA fighters to leave the group’s ranks and take advantage of offers of reintegration support. Over the course of the LRA’s existence, more than 12,000 combatants and abductees have left the LRA’s ranks and have been integrated and reunited with their families through Uganda’s Amnesty Commission. The Security Council emphasizes its support for continued efforts across the affected countries to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate former LRA fighters back into normal life, and notes the recent successful escape of 30 women and children from two LRA groups on the border between the Republic of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Council acknowledges the important ongoing efforts of MONUSCO’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement office to encourage and facilitate further LRA defections, and requests that the UN works with regional Governments to expand these efforts across the LRA-affected region.
“The Security Council commends the important efforts undertaken by the militaries of the Central African Republic (CAR), the DRC, the Republic of South Sudan and Uganda to address the threat posed by the LRA, and urges those militaries to coordinate and concert their efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony and LRA top commanders in the coming months and bring them to justice. The Council recognizes the challenges the Governments in the region face, and welcomes efforts by the international community, in coordination with the African Union and United Nations, to enhance the capacity of regional militaries to conduct effective operations against LRA top commanders and better protect civilians; it notes, for example, the efforts by the United States to work with regional militaries. The Council underlines the need for all action against the LRA to be conducted in compliance with applicable international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
“The Security Council commends the AU’s enhanced engagement on this issue through its regional cooperation initiative for the elimination of the LRA, and its efforts to establish a Regional Intervention Force, a Joint Operations Centre and a Joint Co-ordination Mechanism. The Security Council further commends the support provided by the UN Secretary-General to the AU Commission through the planning process and encourages the AU to promote coordination on LRA issues by sharing its counter-LRA plans at the earliest opportunity. The Council urges the prompt appointment of the proposed AU Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas, and expresses hope that this official will work quickly to solidify cooperation between regional Governments and promote a regional framework for the defection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of LRA fighters.
“The Security Council underlines the primary responsibility of States in the LRA-affected region to protect civilians and calls upon them to take all appropriate measures in this regard. The Council notes at the same time the important role being played by UN missions in the region, particularly through the adoption of protection measures such as community liaison, and stresses the need for them to play a major role in the coordination amongst all those engaged in addressing the threat posed by the LRA. The Council requests that MONUSCO and UNMISS seek, within their mandates and capabilities, to increase protection activities in LRA-affected areas over coming months, with a particular focus on the communities who are most vulnerable. The Council also welcomes BINUCA’s increased focus on LRA issues in CAR and encourages further action by the UN to address the needs of LRA-affected communities in CAR. The Security Council encourages all UN offices and missions in the LRA-affected region to continue to enhance information-sharing and coordination with all relevant actors, and welcomes the preparation of a regional human rights report on the LRA.
“The Security Council commends efforts by the European Union, the United States, and other donors to provide humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations in CAR, DRC, and the Republic of South Sudan. The Council stresses the need for an enhanced, comprehensive, and more regional approach to the humanitarian situation, including assistance to victims of sexual violence and other attacks, and reiterates the requirement for all parties to promote and ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations to the civilian population. The Council calls upon the international community to provide support to capacity-building, good governance and humanitarian efforts in LRA-affected areas.
“The Security Council welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on the LRA, and commends the efforts made by the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), in coordination with United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), to engage with the UN missions in the LRA-affected region, the AU and affected Central African States to facilitate cooperation on issues related to countering the threat posed by the LRA. The Security Council encourages UNOCA to work with the UN missions and the AU to develop a regional strategy for international humanitarian, development and peacebuilding assistance in the LRA-affected area, enhancing cross-border mechanisms to improve civilian protection, early warning capacity, humanitarian access and response, and appropriate reintegration support for those returning from displacement, abductees and ex-combatants, as well as strengthening the overall capacity of affected States to extend their authority throughout their respective territories.
“The Security Council recalls the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants for three remaining LRA leaders on charges of, among other things, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and the enlistment of children through abduction, and encourages all States to cooperate with the Ugandan authorities and the International Criminal Court in order to implement those warrants, and to bring to justice those responsible for the atrocities. The Council recalls its statement of June 2006 (PRST/2006/28) and reaffirms the vital importance of promoting justice and the rule of law, including respect for human rights, as an indispensible element for lasting peace.
“The Security Council requests that the Secretary-General keep it informed on developments in relation to the LRA, including through a single report on both UNOCA and the LRA to be submitted before 31 May 2012 identifying opportunities for improved information sharing between the AU, LRA-affected States and UN missions, and outlining the role of UNOCA in coordinating activity against the LRA.”
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Central African region, for which it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas pursuant to Security Council press statement (document S/2011/693), as well as the first report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) (document S/2011/704).
The report on the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) updates major developments since the previous report on the subject, in 2006 (document S/2006/478), in particular, covering information on United Nations initiatives aimed at tackling the challenge posed by LRA, for which it recommends steps the Organization could take to strengthen its support of national and regional efforts to protect civilians and bring an end to the LRA “menace”.
Since its appearance in the 1980s in northern Uganda, LRA has inflicted enormous suffering on millions of civilians in the Great Lakes and Central African regions, states the report. Successive Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) operations drove the group into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan, and, after 2008, into the Central African Republic. Several initiatives were undertaken to peacefully resolve the conflict, including in 2006 and 2008.
After the International Criminal Court pre-trial Chamber II issued five arrest warrants in 2005 for senior LRA leaders Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya for crimes against humanity and war crimes, proceedings against Mr. Lukwiya were terminated upon his death in 2007; proceedings had not terminated against Mr. Otti, however, whose presumed death remains contentious.
In December 2006, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas and, in March 2008, a peace agreement was finalized between the Ugandan Government and the LRA. However, LRA leader Mr. Kony never signed it. In December 2008, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo launched joint military operations (Operation Lightning Thunder) against LRA, and the Special Envy’s role was suspended. The operation dislodged the group from parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and displaced many civilians.
According to the report, after operations ended in March 2009, LRA is believed to have fragmented into several mobile groups in a wide area, with an estimated 500 combatants. In September, unconfirmed reports indicated that LRA groups were to move from the Democratic Republic of the Congo into eastern Central African Republic and western South Sudan.
National security forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan continued to conduct military operations against LRA, significantly reducing the strength and capacity of the armed group over the last three years, the report finds. Still, LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians due to the limited capacity of national security forces, the report states.
The report notes that between January and August, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs received 254 reports of attacks on civilians, which left 126 dead, 368 abducted and an estimated 440,000 persons internally displaced or living as refugees, mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and also in South Sudan and Central African Republic. Attacks have typically included killings, abductions, recruitment of boys and girls as combatants, serious sexual violence, mutilations, looting and destruction of property. Many women who were abducted and used as sex slaves face stigmatization and great difficulties in reintegrating into their communities of origin. Recent attacks appear to be aimed at ensuring the group’s survival through pillaging food, medicine and arms and child abduction. “Copycat” attacks were cause for concern. Attacks have hampered humanitarian activities as well.
Further, states the report, efforts to quash the armed group include cooperation between the four affected States, United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the United States Africa Command, and the African Union. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has in recent months repeatedly called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops deployed to fight LRA, except those involving information gathering, and indicated the small number of LRA elements should be dealt with as a public order issue. The High Court of Uganda commenced in July the trial of former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo and in September granted amnesty to 26,130 suspected LRA and other armed group combatants.
In 2010, the African Union took a leadership role and, at ministerial meetings, developed proposals for a joint military operations centre and an intervention force. The Integrated Core Planning Team, established by the African Union Commission, is developing a draft mission plan, logistics arrangements and a strategy for civilian protection for the regional intervention force, expected to be operational next year. In May 2010, United States President Barack Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act and, last month, notified the United States Congress of the deployment of 100 combat-equipped military personnel, subject to the approval of relevant Governments, to the Central African region, including advisers to “partner nations’ forces”, which are working towards the removal from the battlefield of Mr. Kony and other senior LRA leaders. Those deployed would not engage the LRA forces unless fired upon.
United Nations activities include a Heads of Mission-level meeting in 2010 and steps taken to improve information sharing and coordination to better address LRA threats, the report notes. In 2011, an evaluation mission assessed, among other things, developments since the 2008 negotiations, and UNOCA was established in Libreville. The child protection components of MONUSCO, United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Central African Republic (BINUCA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country offices in the region have continued to collaborate on matters of common concern with regard to LRA.
According to the report, the Secretary-General remains concerned about the brutal and indiscriminate nature of LRA’s ongoing attacks on civilians. LRA is a serious transnational threat in the Central African region, which, despite having no clear political agenda, continues to perpetuate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Among recommendations contained in the report, the Secretary-General calls for action to eliminate that threat and for arresting leaders indicted by the International Criminal Court. He also urges relevant partners to provide the Governments of LRA-affected countries with the necessary operations support, including timely information sharing on the whereabouts of LRA groups, for national security forces, which should ensure compliance with international humanitarian and human rights laws when carrying out military action against LRA.
The report notes that the Secretary-General welcomes the African Union regional strategy initiative to address LRA, and urges the Union to work with the affected countries to finalize and implement it. He encourages the Union to expedite the appointment of a Special Envoy for the LRA-affected Areas and complete the planning and operationalizing of the regional intervention force, with the United Nations standing ready to support the Union’s regional strategy.
In addition, the longer-term military objective of eradicating the LRA threat should not detract from the immediate need to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of the LRA attacks, which is a crisis that has not received adequate attention from the international community, the report states. He urges donors to strengthen their commitment to humanitarian partners in the affected countries.
He commends Uganda and the United Nations agencies working on standard operating procedures adopted by the Ugandan People’s Defence Force on the release and handover of children, and urges national security forces of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan to adopt similar procedures and implement them in close collaboration with United Nations child protection agencies. He also encourages Member States and other actors to develop a system of cross-border information sharing, especially relating to atrocities committed against women and children, rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage.
Calling upon all parties to provide safe access for humanitarian organizations to affected populations, the Secretary-General, in the report, says more must be done to provide assistance to those in need. He also encourages Governments of affected countries to continue their efforts to facilitate LRA defections and take necessary national measures to prevent impunity.
The Council had also before it the First report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (document S/2011/704), which covers the Office’s activities since its official inauguration in March.
The report states that UNOCA has become fully operational and is working towards implementing its mandate. Between July and October, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of UNOCA, Abou Moussa, visited nine of the 10 members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for discussions on subregional peace and security priorities and how the United Nations could contribute to tackling the problems. He also visited the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community in Bangui.
Leaders of the subregion, recalls the report, underscored the need for peace and security as a prerequisite for development and for regional cooperation, including for the free movement of people and goods. The leaders appealed for greater international support to confront new and recurrent threats, including piracy, cross-border movements of arms and fighters, drug trafficking and organized crime, youth unemployment, gender-based violence and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The need for capacity-building assistance for national and subregional mechanisms for early warning and conflict prevention was also underscored, as was the threat posed by the LRA to several countries in the subregion.
Concerned about the illegal movements of weapons and fighters from Libya into some Central African States, many leaders had noted that the Libyan crisis would impact negatively on peace and security in the subregion, states the report. Al-Qaida in the Maghreb could become strengthened by acquiring additional weapons and supporters as a result of the conflict and could spread its activities into the wider Central African subregion.
The Secretary-General, in the report, expresses concern that the lack of dedicated air assets for UNOCA, in a region where commercial air transportation is extremely limited, has presented a major hurdle to the work of his Special Representative. Nevertheless, he notes, UNOCA has been able to take stock of the opportunities for the Office to make important contributions to a more peaceful and prosperous future for the countries and people of Central Africa. UNOCA, however, will need continued financial and political support from the international community to fulfil its potential.
The Secretary-General states that UNOCA’s innovative efforts deserve support to prevent the emergence of new conflicts, to resolve existing ones by peaceful means and to promote democratic and accountable governance. The Office’s efforts to reach out to all segments of society, in particular to women and youth, whose full potential is yet to be tapped throughout the subregion, are of crucial importance and should be supported.
Joint efforts between the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and UNOCA to tackle pressing security challenges, such as piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the illicit flows of arms and fighters, will continue. The two Offices will also collaborate to promote an integrated United Nations response to the negative consequences of the Libyan conflict. The close cooperation with other United Nations peace operations in Central Africa has also been of great importance, among others, to address the LRA issue.
Mr. MOUSSA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas pursuant to Security Council press statement (document S/2011/693), said that over the years, the LRA continued to perpetrate serious violations of humanitarian and human rights laws with impunity, easily crossing the borders of the affected countries, especially impacting the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The humanitarian situation had deteriorated this year, posing challenges to humanitarian operations and hinder them. The national security forces of affected countries lacked the resources to effectively deal with the problem on their own to, among other things, protect civilian populations and enforce the rule of law.
He said it was crucial that the international community remain engaged in that important issue. Military operations being conducted by the affected Member States should be intelligence-driven, targeted and ensure the containment rather than the dispersal of LRA elements, in order to maximize their impact. The recent deployment by the United States of 100 combat-equipped military personnel to provide training and advisory support to national armies in the region should enhance efforts already being undertaken by Governments of the affected countries.
As indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, the United Nations system was taking several actions to address the LRA problem in a more effective and coherent manner through its political, peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian and development efforts, he said. In addition, United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region were taking further steps to strengthen civilian protection within their mandates and capabilities in strategic locations in the LRA-affected areas to help deter attacks against civilians and to facilitate humanitarian operations, he said.
TETE ANTONIO, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said the LRA was of great concern to the African Union. The problem had taken on an alarming regional dimension. Describing several sessions of the African Union Conference dedicated to the problem, he said the July session of the African Union, held in Malaba, had asked the Union’s Council for Peace and Security to urgently authorize operations against the LRA, including through the Regional Intervention Force and the Joint Operation Mechanism. He asked the United Nations to support that initiative, including through financial, material and logistical support.
He said countries affected by the LRA had been consulted, with the aim of appointing a Special Envoy for the LRA, and a planning team had developed a mission blueprint for operational procedures and for finalizing the strategy for protection of civilians. The Peace and Security Council would meet on 21 November to consider the mandate. The Commission was finalizing mechanisms to get support for countries affected by the LRA and to collect financial resources necessary for the regional cooperation initiative. Noting that the European Union was willing to contribute to the success of African Union efforts, he said the Commission was in contact with other parties, in particular with the United States, to mobilize additional resources and to ensure coordination.
The regional cooperation initiative was a major action that generated great expectations and gave a new impetus to the efforts of member States. The Security Council meeting, therefore, came at the right time in order to strengthen mobilization of support by the international community for future action.
GENERAL LOUIS SYLVAIN GOMA, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States, said the issues of the LRA, the Gulf of Guinea and mutual problems of concern could benefit from United Nations support. Recent developments concerning LRA, including a plan to establish an operational centre to ensure follow-up efforts, emphasized the continent-wide concern for peace and security.
Beginning in 2008, he said, ECCAS had its first peacebuilding mission experience in Central African Republic. Despite developments throughout 20 years of peacebuilding, there were areas that needed to be bolstered, including in training. In 2012, training would be completed for 399 combatants in the Central African Republic and the current mission was slated to end in 2013. Caution would be used in ECCAS’ setting up of brigades. When it came to training, due attention would be paid to the role the armed forces could play in the force being gathered to deal with LRA. Regarding the broad efforts currently being undertaken, he emphasized that “peace has no price”.
Mr. MOUSSA, introducing the First Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of UNOCA (document S/2011/704), said that since his arrival in Libreville, he had focused on three key issues: the operationalization of the Office; courtesy visits to the authorities of the subregion; and initial steps towards enhancing coordination among the United Nations entities in the subregion. He reported that about 87 per cent of staff had assumed duties in Libreville and the Office was starting to implement its mandate.
He said that, following consultations with national and subregional leaders, UNOCA had brought together representatives of the United Nations system in Central Africa for a regional seminar on how to align its support to countries in Central Africa in a more coordinated manner, with UNOCA playing a coordinating role. UNOCA was also working with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Yaounde, as well as with the Regional Office of United Nations Women in Kigali.
Regarding the issue of small arms and light weapons, he noted that member States of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa had signed in Brazzaville the “Convention on the control of small arms and light weapons, their ammunition, parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair or assembly”, known as the Kinshasa Convention. UNOCA would work closely with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa to promote the Convention’s ratification.
He said the issue of piracy and maritime security remained of great concern, as criminals were also carrying out poaching and the use of the Gulf as a hub for the trans-shipment of narcotics. Recognizing the importance of enhanced cross-border security in that area, the countries of the subregion had adopted the Framework to Secure the Gulf of Guinea and a protocol creating the Regional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa. He was in close contact with the Special Representative of UNOWA to better coordinate actions in response to the growing challenge. An assessment mission had recently been deployed to West and Central Africa by the Secretary-General.
The subregional authorities had the political will needed to collectively address the challenges in Central Africa, he said. The existence of a regional architecture for peace and security was a favourable factor. UNOCA was generating a new momentum and creating strong expectations for a more robust approach to dealing with the challenges confronting the subregion.
NOEL NELSON MESSONE ( Gabon) said that, in supporting the creation UNOCA, the Heads of State and Government of the region hoped the Office would contribute to putting in place an integrated approach to the peace, security and development challenges. The size of the mandate required substantial support. Commending the Office for its attention to regional affairs, including to the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to the destabilizing movements of small arms and light weapons, he said piracy was an emerging security concern, which must also be addressed, and in an integrated manner. The Office should also support subregional efforts on security sector reform.
Regarding the LRA, he urged the international community to strengthen its pressure on the armed group to end its attacks on civilian populations and recruitment of children, and procure the release of abduction of women, children and other non-combatants. The efforts of affected Member States and the African Union should also be strongly supported. Gabon had participated in ministerial meetings and welcomed the creation of the joint operational centre, as part of the coordinated regional strategy. He also thanked bilateral and multilateral partners, notably the United States, France, the United Nations and the European Union, including specifically United States President Barack Obama’s support. The United Nations must remain at the heart of the strategy, he added. Combating the LRA must be a priority for UNOCA, which must continue its cooperation with ECCAS and the affected States.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said the LRA had continued to pose a substantial threat to regional peace and security, committing violations of humanitarian law and abuses and displacing 440,000 people in the region. The LRA’s campaign could indeed cause further instability, and removing that threat was key to restoring peace and security in the affected countries. Commending efforts taken by the militaries of the affected States to pursue LRA, he said those operations should always comply with international law and keep civilian protection in mind. UNOCA could enhance those actions by supporting humanitarian operations and by collecting and assembling data to prevent LRA’s damaging actions.
At the same time, he noted, the Secretary-General’s report on those issues pointed out the financial restraints. It was essential, therefore, that the Office deliver on several efforts in its mandate, such as LRA and piracy, issues with strong Security Council support. He was encouraged that conflict prevention would also be part of its work. The international community should be well informed of developments, and the Secretary-General’s future report on those issues should outline UNOCA’s role to staunch LRA efforts.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the countries in the subregion had embarked on a process of moving towards democracy and development. It was critical for the international community to continue to assist the nation-building, while not impinging on national ownership and national sovereignty. UNOCA had paved the way for regional cooperation to address the problems described in the report and could help the United Nations and the Council in assisting the countries in addressing those issues. Focus should be on finding local solutions to the problems. The regional United Nations offices should work closely with the subregional organizations and UNOCA must be adequately staffed and resourced.
The threat of the LRA could not be underestimated, he said, as it continued to pose a serious threat to peace and security, given its ability to move freely across countries. Its inhuman acts had resulted in large-scale displacement. It was important that serious efforts were made to eliminate the remaining groups and bring their leaders to justice. It was necessary for the international community to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and armed forces in the region so that they could take the lead in combating the LRA. He welcomed the establishment of a regional intervention force. Long-term socio-economic development and inclusive political systems were key to challenging the threats of armed groups such as the LRA. He went on to describe Indian support to the regional efforts.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said the LRA posed a serious threat to regional countries, which required a multifaceted approach that included well-coordinated military action and humanitarian aid. The countries in the region, however, must take the lead in resolving the LRA problem. Amnesty, based on international standards, as well as repatriation and reintegration of former combatants should be pursued in a targeted and coordinated manner. The problem of separating children from the LRA should be addressed in a coordinated manner. More attention should be given to the LRA-affected areas in the Central African Republic where local resources were limited.
Underlining the importance of the African Union leadership role, he welcomed the Union’s initiative and encouraged the organization to take forward its military planning. He welcomed United Nations efforts to work in support of the African Union and to enhance cooperation among United Nations missions and agencies in the region. He appreciated the strengthening of United Nations peacekeeping capacities in strategic locations and underscored the importance of information sharing. UNOCA should give priority to early warning and early political action and to strengthening ECCAS mediation efforts and its efforts to address cross-border movements.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said there were high expectations of UNOCA and, to be effective, the Office should concentrate on realistic objectives. He welcomed the Office’s partnerships with regional groups, including ECCAS, adding that regional issues that required horizontal approaches should be dealt with according to the Office’s resources. He was grateful for efforts to establish the Office and called for sufficient voluntary funding to support its work.
He condemned the LRA violence and the massacres it had wreaked on populations for more than 20 years, which had had a deep humanitarian impact and displaced more than 440,000 persons. Combating that violence required a strong and effective response, he said, calling on all LRA members to leave that criminal group and join society. He encouraged MONUSCO in its work and said the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants against LRA members must be implemented. Welcoming the recent African Union decisions on structures to be developed regarding the LRA threat, he said the primary responsibility of the affected States should be to protect civilians. In that, information sharing was an important element that would make the fight against the LRA effective, he said.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said LRA’s devastating impact on the region could not be underestimated. While the LRA had been weakened over the years, its effects remained unhindered; since December 2008, LRA had killed about 3,000 and displaced thousands more. To overcome that threat, resource and other constraints must be addressed, and cooperation and coordination in information sharing must be built.
She urged that more also be done to enhance regional efforts. The current planning team should be complemented by the establishment of the regional intervention force. While commending the United States for leading efforts to counter LRA, sustained bilateral and multilateral support was imperative, including for the provision of humanitarian assistance in affected areas.
Turning to UNOCA, she said the Office was working stridently towards its mandate. She said the LRA threats, cross-border tensions, piracy and other issues required States to act together. Regarding piracy, Nigeria welcomed the mounting concern over that growing menace. Fighting that type of crime demanded a collective effort; already, patrolling coastal waters was having an effect.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said his country was concerned at the LRA activities against the affected populations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Uganda, as the group did not respect international human rights or humanitarian law. Strategies to provide a comprehensive response should be based on the recognition that the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rested with the affected States. The international community should provide assistance in capacity-building and support regional initiatives. Actions taken should not only be military, but should also include disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as well as programmes to improve the living conditions of the affected population.
Welcoming the recognition in the subregion for the need for concerted action and the African Union initiative regarding a Regional Intervention Force and the Joint Coordination Mechanism, he said the United Nations, through UNOCA and its Office to the African Union (UNOAU), played an important role in supporting actions against the LRA, and needed sufficient resources to accomplish their mandates. It was essential that the international community support the sovereign States to establish full control over their territory. The role of justice was also important; those responsible for crimes committed by the LRA must be brought to justice, if necessary, through the International Criminal Court.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that UNOCA had an important role to play in assisting the countries of the region to address some of the major challenges to peace and security in that part of Africa and in supporting their efforts to deal with cross-border challenges such as illicit arms flow, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Joint UNOCA and UNOWA efforts would be indispensable in addressing the negative consequences of the Libyan conflict on West and Central Africa. UNOCA would also play a pivotal role in promoting cooperation between countries of the region on cross-cutting issues, such as that of LRA.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was deeply concerned about the continuing criminal activities of the LRA and their effects on civilian populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The establishment of a Regional Intervention Force on LRA and centres for sharing information, as well as the appointment of the African Union Special Envoy for the LRA would be instrumental in eliminating it. His country welcomed international efforts in enhancing the military capacities of the countries affected by the LRA. He concluded that due consideration must also be given to effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programmes for those associated with the LRA.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said UNOCA could foster a stronger cooperation within the region and the United Nations. She valued the fact that the Office had developed an integrated peacebuilding approach, and encouraged it to continue to consider ways of assisting the electoral processes in the region. It was also encouraging that the Office had cooperated in regional security concerns, including those involving the issue of small arms and light weapons.
On the LRA, she said a three-fold policy should be pursued: lending full support to assist concerned countries to develop strategies to tackle the LRA; striving to develop a holistic approach, stepping up peacebuilding support and improving national capacities and basic infrastructure; and strengthening disarmament and demobilization programmes, by the United Nations and countries of the region, to stimulate further defections from LRA. Military operations against the LRA should comply with international law to avoid human suffering, she added.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) reaffirmed the importance of UNOCA as it bolstered cooperation in the region, including with ECCAS and United Nations agencies and missions, to strengthen security, including arms trafficking triggered by the instability in Libya, and it promoted the role of women. The Office was an important instrument in effective preventive diplomacy in that strategic part of the world.
He said that the Office, given its regional dimensional, was truly needed to combat the dangers posed by the LRA in affected countries. He condemned the armed group and the violence and the displacement and suffering it had caused. He called for more regional cooperation and international support to put an end to it and its attacks.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said the LRA was one of the most brutal terrorist organizations on the planet. Its leaders, under indictment by the International Criminal Court, continued to hold hundreds of abductees hostage, forcing them to loot, rape and kill. The United States had sent a small number of its military personnel to act as advisers to regional militaries pursuing the LRA. United States’ forces would not engage in direct action against the LRA, but would be equipped for self-defence. The United States would work with the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as with the African Union and the United Nations to make a final push to end the long-standing problem.
Underlining the importance of a renewed push to get LRA fighters and abductees to leave or escape, he noted that MONUSCO had done excellent work to facilitate LRA defection, but that across its border, no other organization was playing a role in that regard. He encouraged the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, subregional organizations and affected States, to address those gaps and develop a coordinated regional approach to encourage LRA defections. He fully supported the work of UNOCA, which had embarked on an ambitious and substantive diplomatic agenda.
WANG MIN ( China) said that, although the situation in Central Africa was stable, many challenges existed regarding consolidating peace and establishing development. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had seriously affected the region. He supported efforts by the countries in the region to strengthen their cooperation. UNOCA had improved coordination within the United Nations system in the region and worked actively to promote peace and development. He hoped UNOCA, through coordination, communication and creating synergies, would contribute to lasting peace and stability in the region.
He said the LRA had continued to cross borders in order to commit atrocities, thereby creating an enormous humanitarian crisis. He demanded that LRA members lay down their arms and end hostilities and accept disarmament. A solution required close cooperation among countries of the region and support from the international community. He welcomed the African Union initiative and called on the international community to continue its support of the Union and regional countries to combat the LRA.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said his country was pleased with UNOCA’s efforts at a time when challenges confronting African States, including the LRA and weapons smuggling, were clearly transnational issues. UNOCA would be central in rising to those challenges in a coordinated and cooperative manner to address both development and security challenges. As the Office had a critical role to play, he welcomed the cooperation between UNOCA and ECCAS.
He said his country was increasingly concerned over the LRA’s brutal acts. He welcomed UNOCA’s focus on women and children affected by LRA violence, as well as its ongoing cooperation among the affected States. The establishment of the Regional Intervention Force and the Joint Operation Centre were welcome developments, as was the African Union’s appointment of a Special Envoy. Timely financial support was needed to sustain those efforts. The United Nations peacekeeping missions and the Secretary-General also had important roles to play, particularly in training efforts. The military efforts currently being undertaken to eliminate the LRA threat should be part of a broader strategy, including the reintegration of defecting LRA combatants. For UNOCA to be able to implement its plans, financial support must be available, he said.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) was pleased to note some progress in organizing State institutions in the region, and added that the situation in some conflict zones had stabilized. However, organized crime was among a host of new common regional problems. Active efforts were needed to stem the illegal flow of weapons, among other things, and piracy and armed robbery were also growing concerns. As a result, there was an increasing need for UNOCA to develop a comprehensive approach in promoting regional peace and economic development.
He said that UNOCA held a key role in the region, and strengthening the coordination of efforts would help to effectively meet the challenges and address issues of concern. The LRA, despite joint efforts to reduce its military capabilities, was still operating, and he was deeply concerned about the terrorist nature of its actions. He supported the development of a comprehensive strategy within the African Union to combat the LRA and to establish a joint mechanism to do so; that should have the active support of the international community.
Military means, however, was not the only solution to the LRA, he said. An across-the-board approach was needed, including programmes to demobilize, repatriate and reintegrate LRA combatants. In the context of military operations aimed at neutralizing LRA, civilian protection deserved priority attention.
JOÃO MARIA CABRAL (Portugal), speaking in his national capacity, said the LRA had been committing atrocities across Central Africa countries for too long, including recruitment of children, killing, maiming and raping. Although the number of LRA fighters had been significantly reduced, the group continued to have a devastating impact on the region. It was crucial, therefore, that all actors, national, regional and international, continue to engage until the threat was removed. Encouraged by the attention of the African Union and United Nations to the problem, he called for that to be translated into action. The United Nations was well positioned to improve the efforts of affected countries through enhanced cooperation and information sharing. The African Union initiative should be supported by the international community. Campaigns urging LRA fighters to defect should be intensified, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should be promoted.
He said that the work done so far by UNOCA was very encouraging. UNOCA could play a role in coordinating the activities of United Nations missions and entities in the region, in the effort to defeat the LRA and encourage peace and security in the area. UNOCA should develop its activities in close coordination with the Governments in the region. He welcomed the cooperation between UNOCA and UNOWA regarding relevant security challenges to both regions, including piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and cross-border trafficking of arms and fighters. He strongly supported UNOCA’s work, including efforts aimed at preventing new conflicts and resolving existing ones by peaceful means.
CHARLES-ARMEL DOUBANE ( Central African Republic) said the issues discussed today were critical to his country. When speaking about transnational challenges, he pointed to the bloodshed experienced in 2008 in several villages, once the country’s “breadbaskets”. Now, those populations lived in precarious situations, with thousands of refugees. The insecurity created in the region only reinforced its pervading poverty and had posed great difficulties for his country, in its current fragile, post-conflict period.
Currently, there were three platoons to track such ambushes, but those were not sufficient, he said. One unit of the Ugandan forces was carrying out joint patrols. He welcomed recent efforts, including the creation of UNOCA to take concrete and coordinated action to find mutual solutions to common challenges. His country appreciated the recent involvement of France and the United States, which had already shown positive effects in the region. He would be even more pleased if other partners would join ranks in the just fight being pursued by his country. The people of his country faced many challenges, including peace and security, due to the LRA. Commitment of forces and resources was needed to act together to prevent the LRA from carrying out crimes with impunity, he said.
General GOMA, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States, expressed satisfaction with the vigour with which the Secretary-General’s Special Representative was approaching the issues mentioned during the debate. He agreed that priorities should be defined in order to bring United Nations and regional efforts together.
Turning to the maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, he said the Council should continue to pay attention to the issue after having adopted resolution 2018 (2011) in that regard. Updating Council members on the situation there, he said that Heads of State of the region had signed a protocol in December 2009 to protect vital sea maritime interests in the Gulf. The strategic approach adopted involved the Central Africa Security Mechanism and promoted synergies with the ECCAS and the ECOWAS. He provided technical details on its implementation.
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