Acting Special Representative Briefs on Armed Groups, Border Dispute, Piracy
Despite a peaceful and successful transition in the Central African Republic earlier in 2016, the recent outbreak of violence there had demonstrated the extremely fragile situation in the country, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told the Security Council today.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (document S/2016/996 SEE BELOW), François Lounceny Fall noted that the violence had resulted in high numbers of casualties. The violence had occurred as the country embarked on recovery and efforts to consolidate peace, he pointed out, adding that it had also demonstrated the threat that the continued presence of armed groups in the Central African Republic posed to the entire subregion.
He went on to state that the Secretary-General’s report presented the main threats to peace and security in Central Africa, as well as an update on UNOCA’s activities in the last six months. Despite those challenges, however, the Government had made progress by engaging with armed groups and by adopting a national strategy on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation which most of them supported.
However, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) remained a threat to regional security, he said, adding that its attacks had caused “unspeakable” suffering to civilians. The group was also linked to poaching and trafficking in wildlife. UNOCA, in cooperation with the African Union, would organize the next semi-annual meeting of focal points on the LRA, to be held in Entebbe, Uganda later this month.
He recalled that in August 2015, a team comprising UNOCA as well as the African Union, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) had visited the Central African Republic to assess the LRA threat. In October 2015, a joint UNOCA-African Union mission had also visited the country to discuss measures to counter the group with civilian and military partners. However, the United Nations was concerned about Uganda’s intention, announced on 31 December, to withdraw its troops from the African Union regional task force, he said, cautioning that such an action would lead to a security void that the LRA could exploit to attack populations.
Further afield, he said that collective efforts by the Lake Chad Basin countries had met with success in the fight against terrorism, while noting that Boko Haram remained a serious threat to regional stability as its asymmetric attacks targeted mainly civilians. Its activities had greatly undermined development and exacerbated economic hardship. The situation of refugees and the internally displaced, particularly women and children, remained a cause of serious concern as Boko Haram’s activities continued to hinder humanitarian access to affected areas.
He went on to point out that the resources available to the Lake Chad Basin countries were not enough to finance operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force, emphasizing the urgent need to ensure funding for early recovery and development in liberated areas, including through measures to reintegrate defectors and their families. He voiced hope that the planned Joint Summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Boko Haram would develop a regional strategy to address political, security, humanitarian and development challenges, underling the readiness of the United Nations to support the region in that endeavour.
He went on to state that incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had been rising in 2016, with 50 cases registered at the time of speaking. It was unfortunate that the interregional centre for the coordination of maritime security was not yet operational. It would complete the recruitment of one permanent staff member by the end of 2016, he noted. An extraordinary summit of the African Union on 15 October had led to the adoption of a charter on security and maritime safety and development aimed at preventing piracy, national and transnational crime, especially terrorism as well as trafficking in protected wildlife.
Regarding the border dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, he expressed hope that its submission to the International Court of Justice would lead to a peaceful settlement that would inspire other countries facing similar challenges by demonstrating that a peaceful and legal settlement was both available and possible.
Since the last briefing to the Council by his predecessor, elections had been held in Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, he noted. In some countries of the subregion, however, political tensions arising from recent or upcoming political processes underlined the importance of genuine and inclusive political dialogue, including on meaningful democratic reforms to foster long-term stability, he stressed.
He concluded by emphasizing that the Security Council’s continued support remained critical for peace and security in Central Africa, and pledging that UNOCA would continue to work with the subregion to realize that objective.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:21 a.m.