Expected Council Action
In June, François Loucény Fall, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), is expected to brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual 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
Fall last briefed the Council on 7 December 2016. He noted that Equatorial Guinea and Gabon had agreed to submit their border dispute to the International Court of Justice, based on an UN-mediated agreement signed in Marrakech, Morocco, on 15 November 2016. He further said that the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin countries to fight terrorism had “resulted in substantial military and security successes”. He maintained, however, that defeating Boko Haram would be a long-term effort requiring “sustained determination and vigilance, coupled with a holistic approach aimed at tackling the root causes of violent extremism, including marginalization and extreme poverty”. Fall expressed concern that Uganda’s announcement that it would withdraw from the African Union (AU) Regional Task Force (RTF) would result in a security vacuum that the LRA could exploit. He reported a rise in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016 compared to 2015.
In late March, the US announced that it would withdraw its forces, numbering some 150 troops, from the international effort to fight the LRA. In a 29 March statement, the US Africa Command (Africom) said that the AU RTF against the LRA had significantly weakened the capacities of the group. The LRA’s membership was now below 100 fighters, and although its leader, Joseph Kony, was still in hiding, the RTF had captured several key LRA leaders. The statement said that the US effort against the LRA, known as Operation Observant Compass, would “transition to broader-scope security and stability activities”. In a 20 April press briefing, Africom Commander General Thomas Waldhauser said that his country would continue to provide training and intelligence-sharing, as required, to the task force against the LRA.
Also in mid-April, Uganda announced that it would withdraw its 1,500 troops engaged in counter-LRA operations in the Central African Republic. Brigadier Richard Karemire, a spokesman for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, asserted that the LRA no longer represents a threat to Uganda.
On 12 May, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué renewing the mandate of the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA) for one year. It urged partners of the AU—i.e. the US, the EU and the UN—to enhance their support for the RCI-LRA “with a view to enabling the RTF to pursue and intensify its actions towards the elimination of the threat that the LRA continues to pose to the promotion of peace, security and stability in the region.” The communiqué expressed concern that the departure of US and Ugandan troops would create a security vacuum that could lead to the revival of the LRA. It urged the UN Security Council to “take into account the disarmament of the LRA” in considering the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
Since late 2016, protests have taken place in Anglophone parts of western Cameroon against Cameroonian government policies viewed as discriminating against English-speakers. Of particular concern to protestors is the employment of non-English-speaking judges and teachers. The government has been accused of violently repressing the protests, and in January, it shut down internet services in Anglophone southwest and northwest Cameroon. Fall has been trying to mediate a solution to the crisis, travelling to Cameroon four times between November 2016 and April, engaging with government officials, civil society representatives and opposition leaders. On 20 January, Cameroonian President Paul Biya announced the restoration of Internet services to English-speaking areas. In a 21 April statement, Fall welcomed the decision, saying he hoped it would “help reduce tension and…create conditions conducive to the resolution of the crisis in the two regions.”
A key issue for the Council is determining whether the withdrawal of Ugandan and US troops will enable the LRA to regenerate, leading to greater insecurity in the region, and how the Council would address such potential instability.
Another key issue is the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic, marked by fighting among ex-Séléka factions and among anti-Balaka, ex-Séléka and other rebel groups. How the Council and UNOCA could support the AU-led initiative to mediate with armed groups to find a sustainable political solution is a matter for consideration. (For background on developments in CAR, please see our brief in this Forecast.)
Given overlapping challenges related to terrorism, under-development and displacement in Central and West Africa, an important issue is how the Council can promote coordination and sharing of best practices in the work of UNOCA and the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). Along these lines, resolution 2349 on the Lake Chad Basin, adopted on 31 March, requested a written report from the Secretary-General within five months discussing, among other things, “possible measures…with respect to achieving greater coherence of effort in the context of overlapping regional strategies”.
An option for the Council is to issue a presidential 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 concerns reflected in the PSC’s 12 May communiqué about a potential security vacuum; and
- expresses support for UNOCA’s efforts in addressing the increasing political and security challenges in Central Africa.
Another option would be to have a discussion with AU representatives in the ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa on how the Council could best support the AU-led mediation initiative in the Central African Republic.
Members could also consider holding an Arria-formula meeting with experts on the LRA and regional security to get their assessment of the current capacities of, and threats posed by, the LRA.
Some members are concerned about the possible security vacuum that could result from Uganda’s departure from the RTF and the withdrawal of US troops supporting the effort. This view is consistent with those expressed in the PSC’s 12 May communiqué. There are also ongoing concerns about the security situation in the Central African Republic, and some members are keen to learn more about the efforts of the AU-led mediation efforts and whether and how the Council can support these efforts.
The UK is the penholder on the UNOCA/LRA.
UN Documents on UNOCA
|Security Council Resolution|
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2349||This was on the Lake Chad Basin.|
|28 November 2016 S/2016/996||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of UNOCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|7 December 2016 S/PV.7828||This was a meeting on UNOCA.|