Expected Council Action
In December, 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).
The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August 2018.
Key Recent Developments
Despite the ongoing efforts of the AU-Regional Task Force (AU-RTF), led by Uganda, the LRA continues to be a regional threat. According to the LRA Crisis Tracker (a mapping project created by a partnership of the NGOs Invisible Children and Resolve), the LRA has abducted 47 people since September and killed three. In the period between 17 November 2014 and 16 November 2015, the LRA perpetrated 203 attacks, killing 13 people and abducting 626, with most attacks taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). The LRA is also believed to be involved in elephant poaching in Garamba National Park in north-east DRC, where park rangers and Congolese soldiers have clashed with several rebel groups operating in the park.
A recent decline in activity in the CAR led the US embassy in Kampala to state on 2 October that LRA casualties in the CAR have recently gone down by 90 percent, and defections and abductee releases have increased. US President Barack Obama renewed the mandate of the US anti-LRA advisory force operating in the region on 23 October for another year.
On 29 September, the Washington Post reported that the US has been cooperating with Muslim ex-Séléka rebels in the CAR against the LRA. The US denies assisting the ex-Séléka. In contrast, the May 2015 UNOCA report suggested that the LRA has been cooperating with ex-Séléka and Boko Haram rebels in the region.
Regarding judicial proceedings against the LRA, the confirmation of charges before the ICC against LRA commander Dominic Ongwen is set to take place on 21 January 2016 in The Hague. Ongwen is facing 67 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his actions as an LRA leader. The ICC initially explored the possibility of conducting the procedure in Uganda, near the scene of the alleged crimes, but eventually decided against it in light of the potential political concerns raised by Uganda, which may hinder the work of the Court.
The Council was last briefed by Bathily on the UNOCA report and the implementation of the regional strategy to combat the LRA on 11 June. The Council then adopted a presidential statement expressing its concern at the grave 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 and the terrorist activities of Boko Haram. The Council further welcomed the recommendations in the strategic assessment review conducted by UNOCA in March 2015, in particular the future priorities of the office. The Council requested 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. (This is a departure from the Council’s recent practice of requesting each report in a separate presidential statement.)
In an exchange of letters in July, the Secretary-General and the Security Council agreed that UNOCA’s mandate should be extended for a period of three years, until 31 August 2018, instead of previous practice, which was to extend it for a period of 18 months. The Secretary-General’s letter argued this was necessary to allow UNOCA to cover the electoral cycles in the sub-region, which will end in 2018. It would also align the periodicity of the mandate of UNOCA with that of other UN regional offices. In addition, the letter contained the draft mandate of UNOCA.
The key issue for the Council will be to get an updated analysis regarding implementation and effectiveness of the UN’s regional anti-LRA strategy and the wider impact of the LRA on the region.
Addressing reports of LRA cooperation with armed groups active in Central Africa is another area of concern.
As in the past, an option for the Council is to issue a presidential or press statement that:
- expresses support for UNOCA and 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;
- commends the LRA-affected states for their cooperation and encourages further cooperation in order to overcome the LRA threat once and for all;
- 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.
Council members are largely in agreement on LRA-related issues and strongly support the UN regional anti-LRA strategy. Council members have also been supportive of UNOCA’s continued shift to focus its efforts on the region as a whole, rather than on the LRA as its main objective.
The inclusion of regular reporting in the June presidential statement reflected the view of several Council members that in the absence of particular developments or new concerns, adopting a semi-annual presidential statement on UNOCA is not very productive. Thus, the Council will be less likely to adopt an outcome document following next month’s briefing without a new and specific issue to address.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA/LRA
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|11 June 2015 S/PRST/2015/12||This was a presidential statement expressing concern at the grave 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 and the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|11 June 2015 S/PV.7461||This was a meeting on the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of UNOCA.|
|14 May 2015 S/2015/339||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of UNOCA.|
|Security Council Letters|
|16 July 2015 S/2015/554||This was an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Security Council in which the mandate of UNOCA was renewed until 31 August 2018.|
|21 July 2015 S/2015/555||was an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Security Council in which the mandate of UNOCA was renewed until 31 August 2018.|