|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6891st Meeting (PM)
Activities of Lord’s Resistance Army Top Concerns as Secretary-General’s
Special Representative in Central Africa Briefs Security Council
While the overall peace and security situation in Central Africa had remained stable, amid significant progress in economic growth and declining activity by armed groups, violence by militias continued to spill across borders, as devastating attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to pose grave challenges, the top United Nations official in the region told the Security Council during a briefing today.
Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), said that despite the clear disparity between increasing and competing mandate priorities on the one hand, and the resources available on the other, the Office continued strenuously to cope with that predicament by trying to do more with less. With that in mind, UNOCA would place a premium on building upon and consolidating achievements made this year, including the increased confidence placed in United Nations conflict-prevention efforts by Governments, regional organizations, political leaders and civil society, which acknowledged that the creation of UNOCA had filled a “preventive diplomacy” gap.
With strong support and commitment from top political leaders, UNOCA continued to coordinate the implementation of a regional strategy to address the LRA threat. Yet, challenges persisted in that area, as well, with the most urgent revolving around the need promptly to finalize the strategy’s programmatic document and mobilize sufficient resources for its full implementation. Once that document was finalized, UNOCA planned to organize a resource mobilization forum early next year, he said.
Following Mr. Moussa’s briefing, Council members applauded UNOCA’s diplomatic work and the progress achieved in the region, while all expressed concern about the LRA’s decades-long threat to stability in the region, as well as support for coordinated regional responses alongside adequate resources to get the job done. Many speakers emphasized the need to move forward with a concerted strategy to crush the LRA, with some suggesting approaches to do so.
Togo’s representative said that while the progress achieved in peacebuilding was encouraging, the security and humanitarian situations in the region, particularly in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, threatened the stability of that country and the wider region. Only a negotiated settlement would alleviate the plight of civilians, he emphasized. As for the LRA, it retained an ability to cause grave harm, with women and children the primary victims. Urging all States to cooperate in apprehending the group’s leaders, he said the international community must step up its efforts to support the regional strategy to tackle the LRA.
South Africa’s representative expressed concern over the proliferation of weapons in the region. Concerned also about the brutality of LRA activities, he said the Council should deal with the group as a terrorist organization, since the African Union had designated it as such. Military action against the LRA should minimize civilian casualties, in compliance with applicable international law and as part of a broader strategy, including policies for facilitating defections and amnesty, and for apprehending commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court.
Other speakers agreed that more must be done to arrest LRA leaders and address humanitarian concerns. The representative of the United States emphasized that more must be done to protect civilians, improve intelligence and increase humanitarian access. The success of the regional strategy’s implementation must be seen on the ground, he said, suggesting that the creation of community-based protection plans, and the designation of focal points within peacekeeping operations in the region, could help.
The United Kingdom’s representative said that while the LRA remained a murderous band of criminals, an end to its crimes was in sight. However, that could only be achieved through a sustained focus and strengthened security in the affected countries, which, with the United Nations system, must create an implementation plan to put all pillars of the regional strategy in place, he said, calling for a high-level meeting to discuss the implementation of African Union plans for that purpose.
Portugal’s representative condemned the LRA’s human rights abuses, particularly those against women and children, calling for an immediate end to such crimes. To that end, Portugal welcomed the United Nations regional strategy, and encouraged the Secretariat to help draw up a sequenced implementation plan.
Colombia’s representative called for a clear balance between disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on the one hand, and improved social and economic conditions in the affected regions, on the other.
Also speaking today were representatives of China, India, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, France, Germany, Russian Federation, Pakistan and Morocco.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:05 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and on areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (document S/2012/923). Dated 13 December 2012, it assesses the major political trends in the subregion, while providing updates on progress made in implementing the mandate of the Office, and on efforts to counter the threat and impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), including the United Nations regional strategy, since the Secretary-General’s report of 11 June 2012.
In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes electoral reform, regional efforts to counter cross-border challenges and continuing robust economic growth rates, but stresses, however, the need to translate them into tangible benefits for the majority of the subregion’s people. He expresses grave concern over the high rate of youth unemployment, violence against women and threats to the security of United Nations staff members.
A priority for the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in addressing such challenges is strengthening the capacity and cooperation of regional organizations, the report says, noting efforts to establish partnerships with the Confederation of African Football, the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Coordination with the West African region on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is particularly important.
On the LRA, the report says the Secretary-General is encouraged by progress in tackling the threat posed by the group and its impact since the adoption of the United Nations regional strategy, in light of various structures for collective intervention now in place. However, the LRA continues to terrorize remote border areas, the report states, adding that it is presumed to have carried out 180 attacks since the beginning of 2012, including 42 in the Central African Republic and 138 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to reports by humanitarian partners. The attacks resulted in a total of 39 civilian deaths, the report says, noting that a total of 193 persons have been abducted, one third of them children. The Secretary-General encourages the affected countries, with assistance from the international community, to provide the support necessary for the full deployment of the Regional Task Force in order to counter the threat.
ABOU MOUSSA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa, introduced the Secretary-General’s third situation report, outlining the Office’s work in bolstering cooperation and coordination with regional organizations and States. Subregional integrations were a critical element for sustainable peace and security, he said, which explained why UNOCA continued to work closely with member States of ECCAS and other entities. While the overall peace and security situation remained stable, he said, the region continued to face challenges, including violence by armed groups, especially in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and countries affected by LRA violence, and regional and cross-border consequences.
On a positive note, he continued, the report included good news on Central Africa’s economic growth and the increased confidence placed in United Nations conflict-prevention efforts by Governments, regional organizations, political leaders and civil society. They had acknowledged that the creation of UNOCA had filled a “preventive diplomacy” gap, he said, adding that some of the requests it had received during the reporting period were for mediation, capacity-building support, mobilizing international resources and support for actions in the subregion, and facilitating workshops, seminars and training.
In addition, top political leaders had shown strong determination and commitment to supporting and facilitating UNOCA, he said. As it continued to coordinate the implementation of a regional strategy to address the LRA threat, the Office faced many challenges, the most urgent revolving around the need promptly to finalize the programmatic document and mobilize sufficient resources for its full implementation. Once that was done, UNOCA planned to organize a resource mobilization forum early next year, he said.
He went on to note that regional leaders had demonstrated their political commitment in their ongoing efforts to organize a summit on piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, pursuant to Security Council resolution 2039 (2012). In addition, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo had on 7 December, in Brazzaville, chaired celebrations marking the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, he recalled.
Yet, critical challenges continued to hamper the effectiveness of combined efforts, he said. Among them was a clear disparity between UNOCA’S increasing and competing mandate priorities and the available resources. The Office was endeavouring to cope with that predicament by strenuously trying to do more with less, as recommended by the Secretary-General, he said, emphasizing that UNOCA would place a premium on building upon and consolidating achievements made this year. It would also continue to focus on developing and finalizing a regional strategy to combat terrorism and the proliferation of arms, pursuant to the Bangui Declaration adopted by the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.
PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said the LRA remained a murderous band of criminals, but an end to its crimes was in sight. However, that could only be achieved through a sustained focus and strengthened security in the affected countries. Welcoming the United Nations regional strategy for achieving that aim, he added, however, that the affected countries and the United Nations system must create an implementation plan to put all pillars of the strategy in place, and called for a high-level meeting to discuss how to implement African Union plans for that purpose. The international community had a responsibility to support the region in facing the problem, he said, pointing out that his country had made significant contributions to strengthening capacity for handling affected children.
WANG MIN (China), welcoming regional integration in the face of significant problems, as well as signs of progress in Central Africa, called for further strengthening of regional cooperation to address the many cross-border challenges. China strongly condemned the continuing activities of the LRA, and demanded that the group be immediately disarmed and demobilized. Welcoming the cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in implementing the regional strategy, he called for stronger cooperation in that regard while also commending UNOCA’s communications and coordination efforts, and expressing hope that the Office would continue to improve such activities.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said he appreciated efforts by countries in Central Africa to address their cross-border and other common problems through regional coordination, and welcomed the support of UNOCA in that regard. Unless seriously addressed, security problems had the potential to undo all progress made in the region. UNOCA should continue to strengthen coordination with all regional organizations and help the region’s countries with conflict prevention, and efforts to combat crime and other threats to stability. As for the LRA, he said the Council should galvanize the international community to help build capacity in the region’s countries, adding that his country supported integrated strategies to eliminate the threat. India stood ready to support UNOCA’s efforts to encourage regional efforts in capacity-building, human resources and social development, he added.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said the LRA remained a vicious and persistent menace although it had been weakened and was on the run. It must be eliminated, he emphasized, commending regional countries for their efforts in that regard. The United States was providing them with wide-ranging support for that purpose and supported holding the group’s leaders accountable for their crimes. It was working with other stakeholders to encourage more defections, he said, noting that their collective efforts had made an impact. Still the group continued to conduct attacks, he said, stressing that more must be done to protect civilians, improve intelligence and increase humanitarian access. The United States fully supported the regional strategy in that regard, he said, urging a continuing push for its implementation. Its success must be seen on the ground, including through the protection of civilian, he said, pointing out that his country was supporting community-based protection plans. A common operating picture of LRA operations must be created, and designating focal points in peacekeeping missions within the region could help in that effort. Welcoming UNOCA’s support for wider regional cooperation, he urged continuing attention to human rights, maritime security and other significant problems.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa), recognizing improvements in Central Africa, said efforts must be made to translate economic growth into poverty alleviation. Commending UNOCA for its cooperation with the region’s States in facing security problems, he also welcomed the high level of cooperation among United Nations system entities in Central Africa. At the same time, he expressed concern over the proliferation of weapons, the spread of transnational organized crime and terrorism, as well as the effects of insecurity in the Sahel region. Concerned also about the brutality of LRA activities, he said the Council should deal with the group as a terrorist organization, since the African Union had designated it as such. All energy should be focused on full implementation of the United Nations regional strategy, he said, adding that international logistical, financial and technical support was needed for that purpose, and to build the capacity of the affected countries’ security forces. Military action against the LRA should be conducted in such a way as to minimize civilian casualties, in compliance with applicable international law and as part of a broader strategy, including policies for facilitating defections and amnesty, and the arrest of commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court.
JOÄO CABRAL ( Portugal), describing the devastation caused by the LRA, condemned its human rights abuses, particularly those against women and children, calling for an immediate end to such crimes. Calling for cooperation in bringing LRA leaders to justice, he stressed the need to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors, and to intensify efforts to end the threat posed by the group. To that end, Portugal welcomed the United Nations regional strategy, and encouraged the Secretariat to help draw up a sequenced implementation plan. It also encouraged countries of the region to fulfil strengthen their security sectors in coordination with the African Union initiative, noting also the need for greater coordination among peacekeeping operations and strengthened reintegration processes. On UNOCA, he welcomed its coordination role and deplored security threats to United Nations staff in the region.
TOFIG F. MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) emphasized the importance for countries in the subregion jointly to confront the serious cross-border and related security challenges. Since maritime insecurity had a significant impact on development, regional efforts were needed to address piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, he said, adding that high poverty and unemployment rates also required redoubled efforts by the region’s countries, with international support. He commended UNOCA’s contributions to peace and security, stressing the importance of its increased cooperation with regional and subregional entities. As for the LRA, Azerbaijan strongly condemned their atrocities, he said, underscoring that the United Nations and African Union must continue their collaboration and work with affected Governments to end its crimes. For that purpose, implementation of the regional strategy and the African Union initiative must be accelerated, alongside the strengthening of response capacities in the affected countries, improving transport and telecommunications infrastructure in remote areas and implementing defection and reintegration strategies for remaining LRA fighters.
JOSÉ ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIÉRREZ ( Guatemala) said UNOCA’s work was a clear example of improved regional coordination. Despite the progress made, however, new challenges existed, especially regarding security, he cautioned, expressing hope that the regional meeting on threats in the Gulf of Guinea would lead to further progress. Turning to the brutal activities of the LRA, he condemned its atrocities and constant violations of international law, warning that they could trigger greater instability, and stressing the importance of eliminating the threat. Applauding initiatives aimed at achieving that goal, he urged cooperation among the affected countries and called for the execution of the arrest warrants issued for three LRA leaders, with the support of all relevant States.
PHILIPPE BERTOUX ( France) said many political and security challenges continued to affect Central Africa, in addition to the concerning problem of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The 23 March Movement (M23) and the LRA were of serious concern, the latter having launched at least 180 attacks on civilian populations this year. A plan of action with timetables and specific goals was needed to enact the regional strategy on addressing LRA threats. The use of radio communications and early-warning systems should also be supported, he said, calling for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes that would contain structures for the standard handling of LRA deserters. Efforts to apprehend the group’s leaders should also continue, he added.
FERNANDO ALZATE ( Colombia) noted that elections in the region’s States had shown that democracy was becoming a keystone of progress, which was further bolstered by economic growth. However, efforts towards inclusive socio-economic growth work must continue and national capacity-strengthening must also be developed, with UNOCA playing a coordinating role with regional organizations to enhance the rights and freedoms of all in the region. The LRA actions continued seriously to cause the displacement of hundreds of thousands amid reports of grave violence committed by the group. Efforts by Central Africa’s countries to address the LRA threat must be supported, especially financially. To ensure the success of the regional strategy, resources must be made available, he said, noting that a clear division of priorities should consider a balance between disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and the improvement of social and economic conditions in the affected regions.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said that while the progress achieved in peacebuilding was encouraging, the security and humanitarian situations in the region, particularly in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, threatened the stability of that country and the wider region. Only a negotiated settlement would alleviate the plight of civilians, he emphasized. As for the LRA, it retained an ability to cause grave harm, with women and children the primary victims. Meeting those challenges was a daunting task, he said, expressing support for the regional strategy, as well as for efforts by UNOCA and affected States. Urging all States to cooperate in apprehending the group’s leaders, he said the international community must step up its efforts to support the regional strategy to tackle the LRA.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany), describing the serious threat still posed by the LRA, said the conceptual tools needed to fight the group were in place in the form of the regional strategy and the African Union initiative. Implementation and follow-up were now needed, with regional countries taking the lead. Calling for cooperation in the arrest of LRA leaders and in sharing information to that end, he said Sudan’s participation in all efforts would be particularly helpful. Additional United Nations support for anti-LRA efforts should be considered, with the protection of civilians a priority, and the reintegration of deserting fighters also a top concern. Germany would continue its support for the protection of women and children, as well as implementation of the regional strategy, he pledged.
PETR V. ILIICHEV ( Russian Federation), acknowledging the progress made in Central Africa and welcoming UNOCA’s role in coordinating with countries and regional organizations, said there was a need to continue to improve maritime-security capabilities and to build cooperation in many areas. Concerned about the activities of the LRA, he advocated a comprehensive approach to the challenge, entailing, among other things, implementation of the regional strategy and accelerated deployment of the Task Force. Providing humanitarian assistance and implementing a demobilization and reintegration strategy was also crucial, he added.
SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN ( Pakistan) expressed support for UNOCA’s role in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, mediation and related areas, and called for its strengthening. Ending the devastation caused by the LRA required implementation of the regional strategy, including addressing the underlying causes of instability in the region, eliminating or bringing to justice the group’s remaining leaders and building security capacity in the region’s countries. Pakistan welcomed the troop contributions made to the Task Force and looked forward to seeing its concept of operations. Emphasizing the need to provide international support for those efforts, and welcoming support by peacekeeping operations in the region, he said a regional and international response to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was also needed.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, acknowledging the progress in Central Africa and welcoming UNOCA’s role in activities, especially those relating to building the capacity of regional organizations and fostering cooperation among all stakeholders in the region. Such efforts should continue, particularly in the areas of conflict prevention. He welcomed efforts by the States in the region to cooperate in fighting cross-border criminality, terrorism and piracy, as well as cooperation between Central and West African countries and organizations in that regard. Emphatically condemning continuing LRA activities, he stressed the importance of strengthening security capacity in the region and supporting the reintegration of former LRA fighters.
Mr. MOUSSA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, thanked Council Members for their support, adding that their comments and suggestions on early implementation of the regional anti-LRA strategy were particularly appreciated. He said he had noted members’ concern about the need to strengthen cooperation, increase conflict-prevention capacity, fight piracy and other challenges, in addition to their widespread support for prioritizing good governance, as well.
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