Expected Council Action
In June, 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
Although the LRA is no longer at its height of activity, the start of 2016 saw an increase in activity attributed to the group, particularly in the south-eastern part of the Central African Republic (CAR). According to a report issued by the NGOs Invisible Children and Resolve, the LRA abducted 296 people in the CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the first quarter of this year, reportedly the most in any three-month period since the third quarter of 2010.
Also in the CAR, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) has reported that several villages in Bria region have been abandoned since LRA attacks increased at the end of December 2015.
On 18 April, Council members issued a press statement condemning the killing of a MINUSCA peacekeeper. According to a statement by the Secretary-General, the incident occurred when a MINUSCA patrol was dispatched to Rafai in response to an attack on the nearby village of Agoumar by alleged elements of the LRA.
According to the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO), LRA combatants were responsible for at least 38 cases of human rights violations in the DRC during the month of April. UNJHRO noted that these figures are particularly worrying given that in March no violations by LRA combatants were documented.
Tension has been mounting in the Republic of Congo (ROC) since President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s re-election on 20 March, extending further his rule of 18 consecutive years (and 32 years in total). The runner-up, Guy-Brice Kolelas, conceded defeat, saying he wanted to avoid further violence, but he and other candidates maintain the polling was rigged. Opposition parties led protests against the referendum of October 2015 that allowed Sassou Nguesso to change the constitution and run again. Security forces killed at least 18 people during opposition demonstrations against the referendum changes.
After relative calm, 17 people were killed on 4 April in fighting between government forces and armed assailants in a neighbourhood called “the Pool”, an opposition stronghold in Brazzaville. The government issued an arrest warrant for Frederic Bintsamou for assassination and illegal possession of weapons in connection with the fighting. Bintsamou, leader of the “Ninjas” (a former rebel group active in the 1997-1999 civil war and a 2002 insurgency against Sassou Nguesso) and the father of Kolelas, has denied involvement in the attack. Recent media reports suggest that the authorities have been in contact with Bintsamou, who is still at large, through interlocutors close to him, to resolve the crisis.
During his monthly luncheon with Council members on 17 May, the Secretary-General brought to the attention of members the situation in the ROC, to encourage discreet contacts with the ROC government to calm the situation. One Council member recognised that UNOCA could play a role by talking to political actors in the ROC and the region as part of this effort.
The Secretary-General telephoned Sassou Nguesso the following day, stressing the need for political dialogue to foster national unity following the recent elections and for allowing humanitarian actors to have access to the areas concerned.
In a statement on 13 April, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cited reports of mass arrests and torture in detention, as well as killing and displacement. He added, however, that these reports had been difficult to verify, given the lack of access to “the Pool” area by independent actors.
Another regional threat is that of piracy. Based on a report by the organisation Oceans Beyond Piracy, the Washington Post reported that due to the fall in oil prices, pirate kidnappings of seamen in the Gulf of Guinea have become more common. A total of 15 kidnappings were reported in 2015, while 2016 has already seen an equal number of kidnappings for ransom.
In a presidential statement adopted on 25 April, the Council encouraged both UNOCA and the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel to continue to assist regional efforts to tackle piracy in the Gulf.
Bathily last briefed the Council on 8 December 2015. Jackson Tuwei, Special Envoy of the AU for the Lord’s Resistance Army, also addressed the Council via video teleconference from Nairobi.
After years of activity in the region, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee on 7 March added the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, to the CAR sanctions list at the request of France, the UK and the US.
A 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.
Monitoring instability and potential deterioration in other areas in the region is a major concern for the Council.
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 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 the Islamist group Boko Haram to the region; and
- expresses support for UNOCA’s efforts in addressing the increasing political and security challenges in Central Africa.
On the ROC, the Council may consider putting the issue on its agenda and closely monitoring the situation.
Council members are largely in agreement on LRA-related issues. 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 request for regular reporting from UNOCA in the presidential statement of 11 June 2015 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. At the same time, several Council members insisted that regular reporting by UNOCA continue.
Thus, while Council members maintain interest in LRA activities and other sub-regional developments, the Council will be less likely to adopt an outcome document following next month’s briefing without a new and specific issue to address. Members are likely to follow events in the ROC, but at this time it does not seem as though the Council will take up the issue.
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.|
|30 November 2015 S/2015/914||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of UNOCA.|
|Security Council Letters|
|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.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|8 December 2015 S/PV.7572||This was a briefing on UNOCA and the Secretary-General’s report.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|7 March 2016 SC/12272||This was a press release announcing the addition of the LRA and Joseph Kony to the CAR sanctions list.|