Expected Council Action
In June, François Louncény 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.
Key Recent Developments
The region covered by UNOCA continues to present multiple challenges, including several security and political hotspots that are independently on the Council’s agenda. The most acute current crises are the elections-related political crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi and the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The CAR situation is marked by lawlessness, lack of state authority, and fighting among the predominantly Muslim ex-Séléka factions, between the ex-Séléka and the Christian anti-Balaka groups, and between the ex-Séléka and other rebel groups, resulting in attacks against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian actors.
In the DRC, armed groups continue to wreak havoc on civilians in eastern DRC, accompanied by intercommunal violence in other regions as well. This has resulted in many casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe. The political situation is marked by preparations for the long-overdue elections scheduled for 23 December 2018 and the uncertainty regarding the intentions and future of President Joseph Kabila, who, according to the constitution, was to have ended his second and last term in December 2016.
The political situation in Burundi is also of concern to the Council. There, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a divisive third term threw the country into a political and security crisis in April 2015. The security situation has since stabilised, yet the political situation remains fragile. Human rights violations and political oppression are rampant. Against this backdrop, constitutional amendments were approved in a controversial referendum on 17 May. The amendments change important provisions and safeguards in the constitution, which implemented the 2000 Arusha Accord that ended the ethnic civil war in Burundi in 2005, and potentially allow Nkurunziza to remain in power beyond his current term.
The year 2017 saw a decrease in LRA activities compared with 2016. The LRA, however, remains a serious threat to civilians in the DRC and the CAR, as recent events demonstrate. In the CAR, the LRA has been active in Haute-Kotto prefecture. On 25 March, OCHA reported that the majority of the 6,000 people in the town of Yalinga had reportedly taken refuge in the bush in fear of the LRA. In the DRC, the LRA was responsible for eight attacks in Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele provinces during March.
On 18 May, the AU Peace and Security Council renewed the mandate of the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA) until 22 August. The main component of the initiative has been the AU Regional Task Force (AU-RTF), comprising forces of the CAR, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda, with US assistance. The US, however, withdrew its special forces and logistical support from the AU-RTF in May 2017. Uganda, which has been the main troop contributor to the AU-RTF, subsequently withdrew its 2,500 troops from the CAR in August 2017. South Sudan also ended its participation. In practical terms, therefore, the AU-RTF is mostly inoperative.
UNOCA also continues to pay close attention to the situation in Cameroon, a country not on the Council’s agenda. Since late 2016, there has been unrest in Cameroon’s anglophone regions, rooted in claims of long-standing political and economic discrimination by the francophone authorities against the minority anglophone population. Widespread protests against the government, numerous clashes with security forces, several protestor deaths, general strikes, arbitrary arrests, and blocking of access to the Internet have occurred. National Day celebrations on 20 May were marred by violence in the anglophone regions, with two policemen killed, several soldiers wounded, and the kidnapping of a mayor by suspected armed separatists.
In light of the expiration of UNOCA’s mandate on 31 August, the upcoming report is expected to include recommendations on its renewal. Council members are expecting a recommendation that the office be renewed for another three years.
Key Issues and Options
While UNOCA’s mandate is renewed through an exchange of letters with the Secretary-General, the Council may take the opportunity of the June briefing to adopt a presidential statement or issue a press statement supporting the work of UNOCA and expressing its support for its renewal.
A central issue is the deteriorating security situations in the CAR and eastern DRC. The political crises in the DRC and Burundi, and their potential regional implications, will continue to concern the Council. The Council could express its support for the political role UNOCA may play with respect to assisting the efforts of other actors on these issues.
Another concern for the Council is how to continue to track LRA activities in the vacuum left by the withdrawal of the main troop contributors to the AU-RTF. The Council may call on member states to consider support for anti-LRA efforts and to remain focused on the issue until the threat from the LRA is eliminated.
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. At this point, it seems there is no appetite to add to the Council’s agenda new country-specific situations from the region.
Some members are concerned about the security vacuum that has resulted from Uganda’s departure from the AU-RTF and the withdrawal of US troops supporting the effort. In light of other security and political problems in the region, however, the Council is not likely to focus on exclusively LRA-related action at this point.
The UK is the penholder on this issue.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA
|28 November 2017 S/2017/995||This was the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on UNOCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 December 2017 S/PV.8134||This was a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNOCA François Louncény Fall on the SG’s semi-annual report on UNOCA and the implementation of the UN regional strategy to combat the LRA.|