Expected Council Action
In May, the Security Council will be briefed by Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), on the Secretary-General’s report on UNOCA and the implementation of the UN regional strategy to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Either a presidential or a press statement is a possible outcome.
The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August (the mandate is to be renewed by an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council President).
Key Recent Developments
There have been a couple of notable achievements in the ongoing campaign to pursue the LRA’s leadership in recent months. In early January, an LRA top commander, Dominic Ongwen, indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July 2005, was taken into US custody in the Central African Republic (CAR) (the US has a military advisory force assisting the AU-Regional Task Force, the AU-RTF, in the region). Ongwen was abducted by the LRA from northern Uganda at the age of ten and eventually rose within its ranks. On 20 January, Ongwen was transferred to stand trial before the ICC, where he will face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged part in attacks against civilians in Uganda in 2004. The Council issued a press statement on 20 January welcoming his transfer to The Hague.
The remains of another LRA commander indicted by the ICC in July 2005, Okot Odhiambo, were exhumed and identified by the Ugandan military in April. With the appearance of Ongwen before the Court, only Joseph Kony remains at large of the original five LRA commanders indicted by the Court.
Despite these recent positive developments with respect to the weakening of LRA leadership, the group has continued to attack civilians, and, according to a UN Refugee Agency spokesperson, Karin de Gruijl, since the arrest of Ongwen, has intensified attacks on villages in the border area of the CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). De Gruijl called for the immediate release of three Congolese refugee boys who were kidnapped by the LRA on 21 March from the DRC side of the border, where they had been tending their fields. On 23 March, the LRA released two women and 11 men who had been abducted with the three boys. De Gruijl said that some of them were wounded, and one of the women was raped in captivity.
At the end of the meeting, as it has done after UNOCA briefings in recent years, the Council adopted a presidential statement addressing a variety of issues. The statement expressed concern over the security situation in parts of Central Africa, in particular the ongoing crisis in the CAR and its regional impact, the continuing threat of the LRA (including its cooperation in the CAR with other armed groups) and the expansion of terrorist group Boko Haram’s activities into countries in the sub-region. The Council also called on the LRA-affected states to ensure that the LRA does not find safe haven in their territory. Finally, the Council requested that the Secretary-General keep the Council informed through a single report on UNOCA and the LRA by 15 May.
The key issue for the Council, in light of recent successes in dismantling some of the LRA leadership, will be getting an updated analysis regarding implementation of the UN’s regional anti-LRA strategy.
Addressing reports of LRA cooperation with armed groups in the CAR as well as Boko Haram activity in Central Africa are newly emerging issues for the Council.
A related issue is how the turmoil in the CAR continues to affect the LRA regional strategy and the AU-RTF.
One option for the Council is to issue a presidential or press statement that:
- expresses support for UNOCA and the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the LRA while calling on the states in the region to maintain their full commitment to the AU-RTF;
- encourages member states to contribute more resources toward anti-LRA efforts and regional cooperation, especially in light of the turmoil in countries in the region;
- welcomes and commends the LRA-affected states for their cooperation, leading to recent achievements against the LRA leadership, and encourages further cooperation and efforts to that end;
- expresses concern over reports of LRA cooperation with rebel groups in the CAR and over the increasing threat of Boko Haram to the region; and
- expresses support for UNOCA’s efforts in addressing the increasing political and security challenges in Central Africa.
Taking no action at this time is another option.
Council members are largely in agreement on LRA-related issues and strongly support the UN regional anti-LRA strategy. Council members are also supportive of Bathily’s enhanced engagement in recent months with Central African countries regarding issues such as the situation in the CAR and on the Boko Haram threat.
While it seems that the UN regional anti-LRA strategy is less of a focus for Council members due to other regional conflicts, support remains for the bi-annual consideration of the LRA to maintain attention to the issue. Some Council members, however, question the necessity and usefulness of issuing a bi-annual presidential statement on a regular basis, in the absence of particular developments or new concerns to address that may be effectively advanced by an outcome document.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA/LRA
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|10 December 2014 S/PRST/2014/25||This was a presidential statement expressing concern at the grave security situation in parts of Central Africa, including the expansion of Boko Haram activity.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|20 January 2015 SC/11744||This was a press statement welcoming the arrival of Dominic Ongwen, deputy commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army and wanted by ICC the to the Court that day.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|10 December 2014 S/PV.7334||This was a briefing by Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily on the Secretary-General’s UNOCA report and the implementation of the regional strategy to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army.|
|13 November 2014 S/2014/812||This was on the activities of UNOCA and on areas affected by the LRA.|