Members Express Concern over Continuing Herder-Pastoralist Clashes, Attacks by Boko Haram, Other Terrorist Groups
Despite recent political and security gains, Central Africa still faces looming threats — from the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Cameroon to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — requiring local solutions alongside strong continuing international support, the head of the regional United Nations office told the Security Council today.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) reported broad progress as he provided Council members with updates on recent developments, while cautioning that grave threats to regional security persist, including the continuing presence of Boko Haram and recurrent and often deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers in several countries. As for the worsening conditions in Cameroon, he said civilians bear the brunt of the violence, which has displaced more than 500,000 people and forced another 30,000 or more to flee to Nigeria. To change this trajectory, the Government must guide efforts to seek solutions to the crisis, he stressed.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Central Africa and UNOCA’s activities (document S/2019/430), he highlighted the signing of the peace and reconciliation agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups. He also welcomed the decision by regional stakeholders to hold discussions, stressing that the talks must address border safety, among other challenging issues.
The Special Representative went on to suggest that, by sharing experiences, peacekeeping forces deployed in the region could help to strengthen responses to terrorist attacks and to the growing humanitarian needs. The States involved should work more closely on regional strategies and combine efforts with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), he said.
Côte d’Ivoire’s representative agreed that the Central African countries themselves must drive a regional approach to these and other challenges, with other Council members also expressing robust support for regional actors.
South Africa’s representative emphasized that coherence and coordination among UNOCA, UNOWAS, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union will help to strengthen responses to Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He also expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Cameroon.
The United Kingdom’s representative echoed that concern, warning “there is a real possibility of a Cameroon crisis”. While emphasizing the importance of respecting that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he nevertheless expressed concern over shrinking space for political opposition, civil society and free media throughout the region, describing such groups as fundamental building blocks of long-term stability.
In a similar vein, the representative of the United States cited reports to the effect that 17 per cent of Cameroon’s population need assistance and aid convoys are being blocked amid mass arrests of demonstrators. He welcomed the Government’s plan to address the crisis, while stressing that its efforts must be transparent and impartial in order to succeed.
China’s representative underlined that the Council must respect Cameroon’s territorial integrity and support its efforts to find solutions to its current challenges. While the international community should adopt an integrated approach to recent developments on the ground, States must make their own decisions on issues ranging from development to fighting the trafficking of drugs and weapons, he added.
The Russian Federation’s representative described Central Africa as the key to combating terrorism throughout the continent, including by fighting the illegal movement of drugs, weapons and natural resources. To do so, regional multinational armed forces must have adequate financing to pursue and eradicate terrorist fighters, he said, adding that regional players must set the tone in overcoming crises and settling conflicts.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Poland, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia and Kuwait.
The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 4:49 p.m.
FRANÇOIS LOUNCÉNY FALL, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), reported broad progress as he provided updates on recent developments. Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2019/430) covering the period from 30 November 2018 to 15 May 2019, he said advances in reforming the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) should help to enhance that entity’s effectiveness in regional integration, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and other key areas.
He went on to note that the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on security questions in Central Africa remains, to date, the primary platform in which ECCAS member States can discuss pressing issues. He said he has just arrived from Kinshasa, where the Committee’s latest meeting focused on the political and security situation in the region. Members took note of the elections held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Cameroon’s efforts to find a lasting solution to the crisis in its north-west and south-west regions.
Turning to other looming challenges threatening regional security, he reiterated concerns about recurrent and often deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers in several countries. Moreover, Boko Haram has intensified its attacks in parts of Cameroon and Chad, representing a growing threat to the region and beyond, he said. He suggested that, by sharing experiences, peacekeeping forces deployed in the region could help improve responses to terrorist attacks and to the growing humanitarian needs. The States involved should work more closely on regional strategies and combine efforts with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), he added, also pointing out the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
He went on to note the concerns of key partners relating to protection for civilians in Cameroon’s north-west and south-west regions, saying commitments have been made to engage in dialogue on existing tensions. The Government should guide efforts to find solutions to the crisis, he emphasized, calling upon other stakeholders to find a way forward through dialogue. Despite some progress, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence, he said, pointing out that more than 500,000 people have been displaced and 30,000 have fled to Nigeria. At the same time, Cameroon is hosting 278,000 refugees from the Central African Republic and 104,000 from Nigeria, he added.
Concerning other developments, he highlighted the Central African Republic’s peace and reconciliation agreement, welcoming the decision by regional stakeholders to hold talks and stressing that the discussions must address border safety, among other issues. Turning to developments in Gabon, he said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently reported progress on economic stabilization. He called for efforts to support credible, inclusive and peaceful elections before the end of 2019.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that his country, which has long appreciated Cameroon’s generosity in accepting refugees from surrounding countries and its cooperation in fighting Boko Haram, remains seized of the worsening humanitarian situation, which is rapidly reaching “crisis level”. Expressing concern that some 4.3 million people need assistance, many of them children, he condemned human rights violations and the targeting of humanitarian workers, calling for access to the affected regions. “There is a real possibility of a Cameroon crisis,” he cautioned, also emphasizing the need to respect that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Expressing concern about shrinking space for political opposition, civil society and free media throughout the region, he said that, since these are fundamental building blocks for long‑term stability, Governments should ensure the ability of such groups to exercise their liberties and conduct their work. He went on to express concern over the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, welcoming the recent appointment of a United Nations coordinator to address that situation.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that, in order to consolidate sustainable democratic governance in Central Africa, women must engage their experience and competence in peace dialogues throughout the region. It is also vital to build trust among all stakeholders, she added, commending UNOCA’s efforts in the areas of mediation and preventive diplomacy. Condemning persistent violence by armed and terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said Poland remains concerned about the region’s institutional fragility, poverty and environmental degradation, exacerbated by climate change. Human rights violations throughout the region also remain of concern, she added, expressing particular worry about Cameroon and Burundi.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the recent violence committed by an armed group against innocent civilians in the Central African Republic must be particularly condemned. The Government must launch a truth, justice and reconciliation mechanism that will represent its commitment to the people, she added. Full implementation of the political agreement demands that the international community, UNOCA and surrounding countries continue to work together and coordinate their strategies, she stressed. Turning to Cameroon, she said the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the violence against humanitarian workers in that country remain extremely concerning. While describing the Prime Minister’s visit to the north-west and south-west of the country as a positive sign, she underlined the importance of following up on such promising steps.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) noted that, despite the elections held and the peace agreements signed, persistent political and security challenges are affecting humanitarian conditions, which, in turn, are exacerbated by poverty, as well as greed for valuable natural resources. Condemning the violence committed by armed groups, he underlined the imperative of protecting civilians, calling for the implementation of all provisions of the political agreement. Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he urged the Council to recognize the current stable environment, saying the Government and people have the ability to face humanitarian and security challenges. He encouraged the Government to continue to work with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in tackling the Ebola epidemic. As for Burundi, he called upon stakeholders to prioritize dialogue and find consensus solutions, adding that the international community can play a constructive role in this regard. Recalling concerns about the situation in the Lake Chad Basin, he said it is up to countries in the region to draft a security approach, adding that Côte d’Ivoire supports the African Union’s efforts to eradicate LRA, which remains a security threat.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said cross-border security threats require regional analysis and solutions, from tackling armed groups to consolidating the gains from the Central African Republic’s recent political agreement. As for Cameroon, he emphasized the need for dialogue, guaranteed humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law. UNOCA is a key instrument to prevent conflict and should work to ensure inclusive, transparent and credible elections, he said, adding that a strategic review of its efforts in the coming weeks should deepen understanding of early warning systems and response mechanisms, among other things.
YAO SHAOJUN (China), noting that recent gains are overshadowed by persistent violence, said that, as such, the Council should play a constructive role, with countries in Central Africa identifying their own solutions. Although the international community should monitor and adopt an integrated approach to recent developments on the ground, States must make their own decisions on issues ranging from development to combating the trafficking of drugs and weapons, he emphasized. Commending regional efforts to combat LRA and other terrorist groups, he stressed that the international community must support the States involved and the African Union in this regard. On Cameroon, he stressed that the Council must respect the country’s territorial integrity and support its efforts to find solutions to its current challenges.
BERIOSKA ILUMINADA MORRISON GONZÁLEZ (Dominican Republic) said the ongoing peace processes should have a domino effect across the region, but instability and tensions rooted in electoral processes persist as armed groups and intercommunal violence continue to threaten the safety of civilians. In addition, LRA, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups continue to target civilians, she said, expressing support for the African Union’s strategy to quash their activities. The international community must lend strong support for regional plans to address these and other challenges, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration initiatives, which will make a significant contribution to regional stability. Turning to other pressing concerns, she highlighted some effects of climate change, stressing the need for a regional approach in dealing with such challenges. She went on to call upon all parties to ensure humanitarian access to people in need and upon regional actors to play their critical role in fostering dialogue for peace.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) commended UNOCA’s efforts in promoting stability in the region and welcomed the signing of the political agreement in the Central African Republic. All parties should seize the opportunity to implement the agreement, he said, emphasizing that they must also put the people’s interest first and work in concert towards achieving stability, peace, reconciliation and development. He went on to commend the Democratic Republic of the Congo for holding elections in a calm atmosphere, while expressing concern over the January attempt to stage a coup in Gabon. Urging UNOCA to continue to help in the preparation of elections around the region, he also welcomed the improving security situation in Congo and the easing of tensions in Chad, while expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Cameroon. He went on to condemn indiscriminate attacks against civilians throughout the region and expressed concern over the increase in piracy and armed robbery of vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. He noted, however, the progress made in combating poaching and the illicit trafficking in wildlife and natural resources. Coherence and coordination among ECCAS, UNOCA, UNOWAS and the African Union will help to strengthen responses to Boko Haram and LRA, he emphasized, expressing particular concern over the security threat posed by the latter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. To that end, he reaffirmed the decision by the African Union Peace and Security Council on 20 September 2018 to maintain the African Union-led regional plan to eliminate LRA without leaving a security vacuum.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) emphasized that the challenges in Central Africa can only be resolved through regional cooperation, expressing particular concern over the conflict between herders and farmers, exacerbated by climate change. Concerning the cooperation between UNOCA and the African Union, he stressed that cooperation with the European Union is also very important. He condemned attacks against civilians and expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Central Africa. Turning to Cameroon, he called for political dialogue leading to a peaceful resolution of the situation and welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to enter into dialogue with the Anglophones.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) welcomed UNOCA’s efforts in bringing different players in the region together and commended its efforts in pursuit of regional cooperation with ECCAS and the African Union and ECOWAS. The support of all these regional organizations is vital. Implementation of the ceasefire agreement in Congo and the announcement of plans to release political prisoners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are positive steps, he said. However, Peru is particularly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Cameroon, he said, stressing that access must be granted to aid workers. He highlighted UNOCA’s efforts in fighting the illicit trafficking of natural resources, particularly in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. Condemning Boko Haram and LRA attacks, he called upon the international community to step up support in order to enable Central Africa to tackle its myriad challenges.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country will continue to support UNOCA as it works to strengthen cooperation in the areas of peace, security and conflict prevention. He welcomed positive events in the region, such as the holding of elections and the peaceful transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another positive development is the signing of the political agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups, he noted, adding that Burundi, meanwhile, has drafted a new Constitution and plans to hold elections in 2020. Turning to Cameroon, he commended that country’s acceptance of large numbers of refugees from surrounding neighbours and called for the provision of assistance to the millions of people in need.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) expressed concern about the humanitarian conditions in Cameroon, noting that 17 per cent of the population needs assistance. Reports indicate that some parties are denying access to aid deliveries, he noted. Welcoming the Government’s plan to address the crisis, he emphasized that its efforts must be transparent and impartial in order to be successful. Equally concerned about human rights violations, he said there are reports of the mass arrest of demonstrators, and called upon the Government to honour its commitments under international law, encouraging it to open dialogue with the separatists.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) emphasized that Governments in the region must regain the trust of their citizens and of each other. The international community and concerned Governments must work to build confidence, he said, warning that peace and stability remain fragile, marred by threats from armed groups, illicit exploitation of natural resources and the spread of communicable diseases. He went on to stress that threats from LRA and Boko Haram must stop, reiterating the importance of trust and partnership in tackling such challenges. Indeed, there is need for partnership and collaboration among regional and subregional organizations, he said, while urging the United Nations to enhance coordination among peacekeeping operations, experts and the Security Council.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said regional players must set the tone in overcoming crises and settling conflicts. Describing Central Africa as key to combating terrorism throughout the continent, including by fighting illegal movements of drugs, weapons and natural resources, he emphasized that regional multinational armed forces must have adequate financing to pursue and eradicate terrorist fighters. Citing several successful anti-Boko Haram operations, he said his delegation regrets the group’s continuing presence, adding that concerns are growing about its recruitment of foreign terrorists, including from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Turning to the situation in the Central African Republic, he expressed concern about piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, suggesting that previous approaches used to combat pirates off Somalia could serve as a model. He said his delegation remains concerned about the continued operations of LRA, as well as the current situation in Cameroon. Since challenges and threats in the region are inextricably linked, it is critical not to cross the line between lending assistance and meddling in the affairs of States, he stressed.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying that inclusive, free and credible election processes are critical to ensuring stability throughout Central Africa. Those involved in armed clashes must be found and held accountable, he emphasized, pointing out that attacks by LRA and Boko Haram threaten civilians, as well as development. On Cameroon, he urged that country’s Government to work towards calming tensions and improving the situation on the ground. He also called upon all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue in order to end tensions and the humanitarian crisis. Emphasizing the importance of cooperation with regional organizations, he said partnerships would more effectively address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, among other challenges.