The Security Council today expressed concern at the grave security situation in parts of Central Africa within the remit of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), in particular the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic and its regional impact, the continuing threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and continued terrorist activities by Boko Haram.
In a statement issued by Ramlan Bin Ibrahim (Malaysia), Council President for June, the 15-member body also expressed continuing concern over maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, the illegal wildlife trade and transnational organized crime. Welcoming the local, parliamentary and presidential elections held in the subregion, the Council stressed the need for upcoming elections to be held in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner.
Regarding the international mediation process in the Central African Republic, the Council in particular welcomed the outcome of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation, held from 4 to 11 May and chaired by Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of UNOCA. The Council encouraged Mr. Bathily and his Office to continue supporting those efforts, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the transition process there.
The Council also stressed the critical importance of effective implementation of the sanctions regime established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013), and the key role that regional States, as well as regional and subregional organizations, could play in that regard.
Condemning in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram since 2009, which had caused large-scale and devastating loss of life and were a threat to stability and peace in West and Central Africa, the body urged States in the region to scale up military cooperation and coordination to more effectively and immediately combat that group, welcoming efforts to set up a multinational joint task force towards that end.
The Council reiterated its strong condemnation of the LRA’s appalling attacks, including those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and demanded they end immediately. It urged UNOCA as well as the United Nations political and peacekeeping missions and other relevant presences to enhance their efforts in support of the implementation of the United Nations Regional Strategy to Address the Threat and Impact of the Activities of the LRA.
The Council noted that while the LRA was responsible for 36 civilian deaths in 2014, down from 76 in 2013, the number of its abductions in the Central African Republic and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo significantly increased to several hundred.
Welcoming steps towards a comprehensive and more regional approach to the humanitarian situation, the Council reiterated its call for the swift and full implementation of the conclusions of the working group on children and armed conflict. It asked UNOCA to work with various United Nations entities to promote long-term stabilization in formerly LRA-affected areas, and encouraged donors to increase funding for early recovery projects to help affected communities.
UNOCA was also encouraged to continue supporting development of a subregional approach to address the LRA’s link to illicit trafficking in wildlife and natural resources.
Welcoming the transfer of Dominic Ongwen to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in January 2015, the Council recalled that the Court arrest warrants had yet to be executed for other LRA leaders, including Joseph Kony, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It called upon all States to cooperate with relevant national Governments and the Court in order to execute those warrants and to bring to justice those responsible.
The Council welcomed the recommendations of the Strategic Assessment Review conducted in March 2015, noting in particular the suggestion that UNOCA focus on areas of work in which the Office had recognized strengths and a comparative advantage. It asked the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed through a report on the situation in Central Africa and UNOCA’s activities to be submitted before 30 November 2015 and every six months thereafter.
Earlier, briefing the Council, Mr. Bathily said that since its creation in 2010, UNOCA had demonstrated its added value in a fragile subregion with enormous internal and cross-border security challenges. With the Council’s continued support, the Office would continue to be a “steadfast partner to Central African States in the promotion of peace and stability”.
The political and security situation in the region during the reporting period remained a source of concern. Central Africa was marked by pre-electoral tensions, economic crisis exacerbated by falling commodity prices, youth unemployment, terrorism and cross-border spillover of domestic conflicts. The crisis in the Central African Republic continued to have regional and multidimensional consequences, including almost 500,000 refugees, gross human rights violations, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, growing gang-related criminality, and environmental degradation in refugee areas.
As Chair of the Bangui Forum, he had worked in close consultation with partners towards defusing pre-Forum tensions and discouraging spoilers, advising participants, including armed groups, ensuring inclusivity and transparency, facilitating ownership of the process by Central Africans, and keeping all actors mindful of a long-term vision for peace. “Moving forward it will be critical to capitalize on the momentum generated by the Forum and mobilize the required resources for the elections and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration,” he said.
Boko Haram remained a serious threat to the Lake Chad Basin region, posing a dire humanitarian situation in the region, he said. Insecurity and insufficient resources continued to strain the already stretched response capacities of Governments and United Nations entities in the affected countries. While the fight against Boko Haram was not over, the international community must start looking ahead to the stabilization phase in order to secure military gains, including by candidly examining and addressing the root causes of violent extremism.
The LRA continued to pose a threat to regional security and, during the period under review, the number of abductions increased and more than 200,000 persons still remained displaced across the region, he said. Mr. Ongwen’s removal from the battlefield sent a strong message to remaining LRA fighters and signified that international efforts to combat the group, within the framework of the United Nations and African Union Regional Strategies, were bearing fruit.
With Central Africa having entered an electoral cycle ending in 2018, political tensions were on the rise in some countries, he said. Issues related to amending constitutional term limits were dividing electorates, while violent confrontations had led to the loss of life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, and social grievances were percolating. In that context, he continued to use the good offices of the Secretary-General to engage political stakeholders across the subregion and encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 10:23 a.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2015/12 reads as follows:
“The Security Council expresses its concern at the grave security situation in parts of Central Africa within the remit of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), in particular the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) and its regional impact, the continuing threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the continued terrorist activities perpetrated by Boko Haram in countries in the subregion. The Council also expresses its continuing concern regarding maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, the illegal wildlife trade and transnational organised crime. The Council welcomes the local, parliamentary and presidential elections held in the subregion and stressed the need for upcoming elections in the region to be held in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner according to their constitutions, and encourages UNOCA to continue to support States in this regard including through the promotion of women’s political participation.
“The Security Council commends the role of the ECCAS Heads of States in the ECCAS-led international mediation process in CAR and welcomes the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Abdoulaye Bathily, in the process. The Council commends SRSG Bathily for his diplomatic efforts, in collaboration with the ECCAS mediator, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, the African Union Special Envoy for the CAR, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the CAR, Lieutenant General (Rtd.) Babacar Gaye. In particular, the Council welcomes the holding of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation from 4–11 May, chaired by SRSG Bathily, and welcomes the outcomes of the meeting. The Council encourages SRSG Bathily and his Office to continue supporting these efforts and to support the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the transition process in the CAR, through the international mediation process. The Council also stressed the critical importance of effective implementation of the sanctions regime established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013), and the key role that regional States, as well as regional and subregional organizations, can play in this regard.
“The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks conducted by Boko Haram since 2009, which have caused large-scale and devastating loss of life and represent a threat to the stability and peace of West and Central Africa. In particular, the Council strongly condemns the continued increase in attacks perpetrated by the terrorist group in Nigeria, along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, in the northern provinces of Cameroon and attacks near the Nigeria-Chad border. The Council expresses concern that the activities of Boko Haram continue to have adverse humanitarian impact on West and Central Africa, including the displacement of an estimated 74,000 Nigerians into neighbouring Cameroon, 96,000 internally displaced persons within Cameroon, and in Chad almost 20,000 Nigerian refugees, 8,500 returnees and 14,500 internally displaced persons.
“The Security Council welcomes the recent gains made by States in the region against Boko Haram, and commends the bravery of the troops involved. The Council underlines the continuing threat presented by Boko Haram to peace and stability in the region. It urges States in the region to further enhance regional military cooperation and coordination to more effectively and immediately combat Boko Haram, in accordance with international law. In this regard, it welcomes efforts by the region to set up a multinational joint taskforce, and strongly encourages the ongoing coordination efforts of ECCAS and ECOWAS to counter Boko Haram. The Council stresses the need to adopt a comprehensive approach in order to successfully tackle the threat presented by Boko Haram to the region. The Security Council encourages partners to increase security assistance to Lake Chad Basin Commission countries and Benin, humanitarian support across the region for those affected by Boko Haram activities. The Council calls on UNOCA to continue its collaboration with the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), in order to continue to support, as appropriate, the States of the Lake Chad Basin region to address the impact of the threat on peace and security, including the political, socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in the subregion. The Council underlines the need for all actions to counter Boko Haram to be conducted in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, as applicable.
“The Security Council reiterates its strong condemnation of the appalling attacks, including those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by the LRA and other violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights, including the LRA’s recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, killing and maiming, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence, and abductions. The Council demands an immediate end to all attacks by the LRA and urges the LRA to release all those abducted, and to disarm and demobilise. The Council welcomes the progress made with regard to ending crimes under international law in Central Africa and reiterates its resolve to maintain the current momentum until a permanent end to the threat posed by the LRA has been achieved.
“The Security Council pays tribute to the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Central Africa and head of UNOCA, Abdoulaye Bathily, and African Union (AU) Special Envoy on the LRA Issue Lieutenant General Jackson Kiprono Tuwei (Rtd.) to strengthen regional cooperation and facilitate continued AU-Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) operations in the region. The Council urges UNOCA, in its coordination role, as well as the United Nations political and peacekeeping missions in the region and other relevant United Nations presences, to enhance their efforts in support of the implementation of the United Nations Regional Strategy to Address the Threat and Impact of the Activities of the LRA (the United Nations strategy), as appropriate and within the limits of their mandates and capacities. The Council encourages the Secretary-General to optimize UNOCA’s efforts in this regard, including through the use of staff and provision of support to counter-LRA efforts.
“The Security Council urges the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as relevant and in accordance with their mandates, to cooperate, coordinate, and share information related to the regional threat of the LRA in a timely manner, and to share relevant information with Governments of States of the region, with non-governmental organizations and relevant partners, to enhance cross-border cooperation in order to better anticipate and respond to LRA movements. The Council emphasizes the need for operational coordination and information-sharing between the AU-RTF and all relevant United Nations and African Union missions, in the context of their protection of civilians activities, human rights monitoring, implementation of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement (DDRRR) programmes, and counter-LRA operations, as appropriate and in accordance with their mandates.
“The Security Council urges MONUSCO and MINUSCA, and other United Nations actors in the LRA-affected region, to continue to work with regional forces, national Governments, international actors and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, to develop a common approach to the promotion of defections and support for DDRRR efforts across the LRA-affected area. The Council highlights the importance of programmes in encouraging defections and in support of the release, return and successful reintegration of women, children, and men abducted by the LRA, in particular those that target community acceptance of such individuals, in particular children.
“The Council commends the significant progress made by the AU-RTF and its troop contributing countries, and pays tribute to the important role played by the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces in tackling the LRA threat. The Council notes the importance of continued regional and international support for the AU-RTF’s operations, logistics, and headquarters. In this regard, the Council welcomes the continued advisory and logistical support provided by the United States as well as funding provided by the European Union. The Council underlines the primary responsibility of States in the LRA-affected region to protect civilians. The Council underlines the need for all military action against the LRA to be conducted in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, as applicable, and to minimize the risk of harm to civilians in all areas of operation and to take into account the association of children with the LRA. The Council also reiterates its encouragement to deploy child protection advisers within the AU-RTF.
“The Security Council expresses concern that the LRA continues to pose a regional security threat, particularly in CAR and DRC. The Council calls upon the affected States to ensure that the LRA does not find safe haven in their territory, in accordance with international law. The Council takes note that the presence of some senior LRA leaders in the disputed Kafia Kingi enclave, on the border between CAR, South Sudan and Sudan, continues to be reported. The Council takes note that the Government of Sudan has denied this. The Council welcomes the invitation extended to the African Union to verify reports of LRA presence in Kafia Kingi, and urges the African Union Commission and the African Union Peace and Security Council to verify the allegations. The Council expresses its continued concern that the gravity of the national crisis in the CAR and strongly condemns the LRA’s opportunistic cooperation in CAR with other armed groups, including some ex-Séléka combatants.
“The Security Council notes that the number of deaths for which the LRA was responsible decreased from 76 civilian deaths in 2013 to 36 deaths in 2014, but that the number of abductions in CAR and eastern DRC significantly increased to several hundreds. The Council expresses its concern at the increase in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA’s) estimate of the number of people displaced by the LRA threat from 131,090 in September 2014 to 180,000 in December 2014. The Council commends efforts by international donors to provide humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations in the CAR, the DRC and the Republic of South Sudan, but notes with concern that renewed efforts are urgently needed to provide humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations. The Council reaffirms its call for all parties to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, consistent with the relevant provisions of international law and the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.
“The Security Council welcomes the steps taken to deliver an enhanced, comprehensive, and more regional approach to the humanitarian situation, including assistance to victims of sexual violence and other attacks, and urges further progress in this regard.
“The Security Council reiterates its call for the swift and full implementation of the conclusions of the working group on children and armed conflict concerning the situation of children and armed conflict affected by the LRA. In this regard, the Council encourages those countries affected by the LRA which have not yet done so to establish Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of LRA children to civilian child protection actors.
“The Security Council encourages donors to increase funding for early recovery projects to help affected communities restore stability and rebuild their livelihoods as the LRA threat begins to recede. The Council requests that UNOCA work with the African Union, World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other international experts to develop a development framework for international efforts to promote the long-term stabilization of formerly LRA-affected areas in South Sudan, the DRC, and the CAR, including through early recovery projects and programs to strengthen community cohesion.
“The Security Council welcomes the transfer of Dominic Ongwen to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in January 2015. The Council expresses its appreciation to all those who cooperated in this effort, notably the governments of Uganda, CAR and the United States, as well as the African Union, MINUSCA, and the International Criminal Court. The Council recalls that International Criminal Court arrest warrants have yet to be executed for other LRA leaders, including Joseph Kony, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, cruel treatment, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and forced enlistment of children, and calls upon all States to cooperate with relevant national Governments and the International Criminal Court, in accordance with their respective obligations, in order to execute those warrants, and to bring to justice those responsible.
“The Security Council expresses its concern at the link between illicit trafficking in wildlife and natural resources and financing of armed groups in the subregion, including the LRA, and, in this regard, encourages UNOCA to continue to support the development of a coherent and concerted subregional approach to address this disturbing phenomenon.
“The Security Council commends UNOCA’s support for regional anti-piracy efforts, in cooperation with UNOWA, to address maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea that continues to affect States of Central and West Africa. The Council encourages UNOCA to continue to assist the region in implementing the decisions of the Yaoundé summit, and in the establishment of a regional information-sharing architecture.
“The Security Council welcomes the recommendations of the Strategic Assessment Review conducted in March 2015. In particular, the Council notes the recommendation that UNOCA focus on areas of work in which the Office has recognized strengths and a comparative advantage, including in the four areas of: good offices, preventive diplomacy and mediation; supporting United Nations, regional, and subregional initiatives on peace and security; enhancing United Nations coherence and coordination in the subregion; and advising the Secretary-General and United Nations entities in the region on significant peace and security developments in Central Africa.
“The Security Council requests that the Secretary-General keep it informed through a report on the situation in Central Africa and UNOCA’s activities to be submitted before 30 November 2015 and every six months thereafter, on the activities of UNOCA, progress made in conducting assessments of the LRA’s evolving area of operations and logistical and support networks, and the efforts being undertaken respectively by missions in the region and relevant United Nations agencies to implement the United Nations Regional Strategy.”