Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council meeting will be made available after its conclusion.
FRANÇOIS LOUNCÉNY FALL, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2018/521), stressed that the situation in Central Africa continued to be difficult due to a number of serious political and security threats, including in countries affected by long-standing conflicts, such as the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All 11 member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) were in the middle or beginning of electoral cycles, while populations across the region continued to call for better socioeconomic conditions. On 10 May, the new Government of Chad was sworn in, he noted, while in Gabon, the newly established electoral body began preparations for upcoming legislative elections. On 7 June, the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, adopted a new Constitution and validated the results of the referendum of 17 May, although many had expressed concern that the reform could undermine the progress made under the Arusha Accords.
The escalation of violence and tensions in the north and south-west of Cameroon continued to be of major concern, he said, adding that some 20,000 Cameroonian refugees had crossed the border into Nigeria. The Congo continued with a series of trials of political leaders arrested after the presidential elections in 2016, while in São Tomé and Principe, tensions continued to escalate following a decision to revoke the appointment of several Supreme Court judges. The conflict in the Central African Republic continued to have a negative impact on the subregion, particularly in neighbouring countries, which were hosting many refugees. On 11 June, the President of Equatorial Guinea called on all legally registered and unregistered parities, as well as civil society and the diaspora to participate in a national political dialogue.
“The scourge of terrorism and violent extremism continues to affect populations of the subregion and divert Government resources from much-needed development programmes to costly security operations,” he warned. Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army had not stopped their deadly attacks on civilians, committing egregious human rights abuses, resulting in countless victims. UNOCA was engaging subregional organizations to fight Boko Haram and address violent extremism, including in the implementation of the Regional Strategy against Boko Haram. “Violent extremism, as well as persisting cross-border security and criminal activities, are compounded by the flow of small arms and light weapons throughout the subregion,” he emphasized.
He said that, to respond to those challenges, the first Conference of States Parties to the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and all Parts and Components, was taking place in Cameroon, with the participation of UNOCA. He was convinced that the participation of women and youth would be crucial in ensuring a successful joint summit of the ECCAS and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which was expected to take place in July. Consistent with its mandate, UNOCA continued to actively support Member States in Central Africa, as well as subregional organizations.
AHMAD ALLAM-MI, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States, speaking via video-teleconference from Manhasset, New York, introduced the work of that 11-nation organization, which was established in 1983 to promote and strengthen cooperation and balanced and sustained development. Peace and security became part of its work in 1999 through the creation of the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa. He noted its efforts in the areas of maritime security and the fight against terrorism, with a framework for cooperation with the ECOWAS on the latter issue being prepared ahead of a joint summit of the two organizations in late July. At the same time, ECCAS was undergoing major reforms, with draft texts due to be adopted by Heads of State and Government in late 2018 or early 2019.
Turning to the political, security and humanitarian situation, he said Central Africa remained a region of open and latent crises and conflicts. It was particularly affected by political crises in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the political, security and humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic; and the activities of terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report, he said excellent cooperation between UNOCA and ECCAS had enabled joint activities on the ground. He went on to note several recent developments, including the announcement by the President of Burundi that he would not seek re-election in 2020; the acquittal of the former Vice‑President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court; and in the Central African Republic, the resurgence of violence in Bangui and the interior of the country. Condemning all acts of violence, including those perpetrated against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), he said the political, security and humanitarian situation would be discussed by leaders of ECCAS on the margins of the African Union summit on 1 and 2 July in Nouakchott.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) expressed concern about the security and political situation in Central Africa, including the threats from terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He stressed that military and non-military action were required to address those threats, including a better understanding of their root causes and the humanitarian needs of the affected populations. His delegation was concerned by the situation in Cameroon and the number of resulting military and civilian causalities. He recognized UNOCA’s efforts, including its support for the African Peace Initiative in the Central African Republic, and its support for States in the subregion to hold timely, inclusive and transparent elections. He expressed concern about the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and called for further reporting on the issue in the future. UNOCA had demonstrated its ability to support regional Governments and organizations and should continue focusing on building the capacities of regional entities.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) noted that the international community was facing a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with more than 20 deaths thus far, which raised new concerns that called for new coordinated actions. The political and security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic were challenges which should be resolved through direct internal dialogue with the support of the international community and regional and subregional organizations. The African Union continued calling for support from the international community in the battle against the Lord’s Resistance Army. Expressing concern about Boko Haram, he said that the terrorist activities of that group were not only a threat to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin, but to the whole of West Africa. He drew attention to the failed coup d’état in his country in December 2017, and said that situations of even greater gravity could arise, further destabilizing an already volatile region.
ELAINE MARIE FRENCH (United States) said the deteriorating situation in Cameroon, including violence against civilians, demanded the Council and UNOCA’s attention. “The stakes in Cameroon are too high for this crisis to continue to go unaddressed,” she said, emphasizing Cameroon’s essential role in the fight against Boko Haram. The crisis in the Anglophone region of Cameroon threatened to distract from other regional security concerns, she said, warning that tensions could get worse, leading to the potential of election-related violence later this year. The Council must be vigilant in the coming months, she said, urging all parties in Cameroon to take immediate steps to de-escalate the crisis and to protect civilians, and looking forward to more discussions on the issue with the Special Representative and Head of UNOCA.
Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) conveyed his country’s concern over ongoing violence and human rights violations in the subregion. UNOCA’s actions should make it possible to closely follow the situation and favour prevention. He expressed concern particularly about the threat of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin, as well as the actions of the so-called LRA. He went on to emphasize the severe humanitarian crisis in Central Africa, where 11 million people depended on external assistance. The international community must redouble efforts to resolve that situation, he said.
ILAHIRI ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) said the international community must have a coordinated response to the serious political and security challenges in Central Africa, which included armed conflict, terrorism, poaching, organized transnational crime and maritime piracy. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he called for effective implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreements, including elections due in December this year, with its Government addressing security and socioeconomic challenges. He took note of the recent constitutional referendum in Burundi and called on the parties to resume dialogue. On the security situation in the Lake Chad Basin and the presence of Boko Haram, he welcomed the upcoming implementation of a stabilization strategy in line with Council resolution 2349 (2017) and expressed support for strengthening the multinational joint task force as recommended by the Secretary-General. He went on to express concern about the Lord’s Resistance Army, saying it remained a threat to civilians despite its reduced operational capacity. He also conveyed Côte d’Ivoire’s support for a strategy to combat mercenary activities and to regulate pastoralism. Concluding, he said his delegation favoured a renewal of UNOCA’s mandate, as its work remained relevant.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed concern over tension in the English‑speaking regions of Cameroon, urging all parties involved to create the conditions for a cessation of violence and a genuine and inclusive dialogue. Regarding Boko Haram and other extremist groups and organized crime networks, the African Union, Lake Chad Basin Commission and the United Nations must keep working on a well-coordinated regional strategy to fight root causes. Kazakhstan called on all international partners to continue to support regional counter-terrorist forces, he added. On the growing number of internally displaced persons and refugees, he called for both international donor support, as well as coordinated local government efforts to ensure security and create conditions for voluntary returns. Expressing appreciation for the Regional Office’s coordinating role, he said much work still remained to be done and that his delegation would support extending its mandate for the next three years.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) stressed that the current emerging threats should be faced in collaboration with regional and subregional organizations to decrease the impact they may have on the stability of the subregion. Although every country had its own reality, conflicts in the region should be resolved through mediation, preventive diplomacy and constructive, inclusive dialogue. To respond to the multitude of challenges that existed, the countries in the region and the international community should delve into the root causes of those challenges, including the lack of control of natural resources which were used to finance the illicit activities of groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army. He called on the international community to address the humanitarian situation in the subregion, drawing attention to the 10 million people in the Lake Chad Basin that required urgent assistance.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that the situation in the Central African region was indeed worrying and required the utmost attention. The activities of terrorists were exacerbated by prolonged conflicts and the weakening of central authority and State institutions, while transnational crime was intimately intertwined with the terrorist threat. The deteriorating political, socioeconomic and security environment in the Central African Republic was a clear testament to the fragile situation in the country and threatened to plunge it into another cycle of violence and conflict. Ensuring broader and inclusive dialogue and reconciliation of the different communities was important to addressing the challenges the country was facing. It was critical that the peace and security of the region was closely monitored, and it was important that the stability of its countries was maintained. The efforts of the people and Government of Cameroon towards a peaceful settlement of the issues in that country should be supported.
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said that the Central African region continued to face several challenges, including electoral processes and issues related to political space. The humanitarian situation in the region was also a source of concern. Taken in their totality, those developments deserved the attention of both the Council and the region, particularly as they could serve as early warning signs for even greater challenges ahead. Further support was needed to build the capacities of Central Africa’s regional organizations, and in that regard, his delegation was encouraged by the increased collaboration between ECCAS and ECOWAS, including the upcoming joint summit. Sweden was deeply concerned by the dire security, human rights and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, as well as the unresolved situation in the north-west and south-west regions in Cameroon, stressing: “The need to address long-standing grievances is evident.”
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), praising the work of UNOCA, said recent developments had highlighted the volatile nature of Central Africa’s political, security and humanitarian situation. Root problems required an urgent response, she said, adding that Governments in the region must ensure the smooth conduct of several upcoming elections. Instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic, as well as recent developments in Cameroon, were particularly concerning. Internal and regional support for State-building was crucial not only for the countries concerned, but for the entire subregion. She went on to express ongoing concern about the Lord’s Resistance Army and Boko Haram, stating that international initiatives to combat those two groups — including the Multinational Joint Task Force — required ongoing support.