UNOCA (Central Africa)
Expected Council Action
In August, the Council will hold consultations to discuss the strategic review of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), due by 1 August. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita is expected to participate. An outcome addressing the conclusions of the review is possible.
The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August 2021.
Key Recent Developments
In a presidential statement on 10 August 2018, the Council asked the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of the scope of UNOCA’s mandate and activities and to present recommendations to the Council by 1 August 2019 about new or refocused priorities as well as areas that could be improved. The Council expressed its intention to consider these recommendations, including any proposed changes to the mandate, by 31 August.
On 4 June, Special Representative and head of UNOCA François Louncény Fall briefed the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on UNOCA. The briefing was followed by consultations. Fall expressed confidence that the findings of the ongoing UNOCA strategic review would contribute to enhancing UNOCA’s effectiveness and its role in preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding, in close cooperation with relevant UN entities.
Fall also spoke about several situations in the region. On the terrorist group Boko Haram, he noted that it has intensified its attacks on Cameroon and Chad since late 2018, killing nearly 100 civilians and members of the security forces. Despite the commendable efforts of the affected countries, he continued, the terrorist group still poses a security threat to Central Africa and beyond. He said that the Lord’s Resistance Army is an ongoing threat to peace and security in Central Africa, particularly in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On Cameroon, he noted that the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Since late 2016, there has been unrest in Cameroon’s anglophone north-western and south-western regions, rooted in claims of long-standing political and economic discrimination by the francophone authorities against the anglophone minority. The government has rejected calls by separatists for independence; neither side has demonstrated a genuine willingness to find a compromise, Fall said. He noted that frequent clashes between secessionist armed groups and national defence and security forces have resulted in many civilian casualties, while about 530,000 people are internally displaced and more than 30,000 have taken refuge in Nigeria. The latest UNOCA report notes that an estimated 1,850 people, including civilians, separatist fighters and government forces, had been killed since September 2017, and human rights violations have been committed by security forces and rebel groups. School closures, multiple abductions of students and teachers, movement restrictions, and incidents of sexual and gender-based violence contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation, negatively affected local economies and access to basic social services, and significantly increased protection risks. The report adds that there has been no major progress towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis through dialogue.
The situation in Cameroon has been of particular interest to some Council members. On 13 May, the Dominican Republic, Germany, the UK and the US organised an Arria-formula meeting on “the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon”. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock; Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland; Esther Omam Njomo, the executive director of Reach Out Cameroon, a local NGO focused on the well-being of underprivileged groups in Cameroon; and Father Paul Fru Njokikang, director of Caritas for the Archdiocese of Bamenda in the north-western region of Cameroon, briefed.
Recent developments concerning situations covered by UNOCA include:
The Global Peace Agreement in the Central African Republic (CAR) was signed by the CAR government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February. It addresses justice and reconciliation, governance, and transitional security arrangements. A new government with representatives from all armed groups was formed on 22 March. The Council was last briefed on CAR on 20 June by Mankeur Ndiaye, the Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA). European External Action Service Managing Director for Africa Koen Vervaeke and AU Special Representative and head of the AU Office in the CAR Matias Bertino Matondo also briefed.
On 17 July, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a “public health emergency of international concern”. Thus far, WHO has refrained from recommending any travel restrictions because of the outbreak. The second-largest outbreak of Ebola on record has surpassed 2,500 confirmed cases in the DRC since August 2018. More than 1,600 people have died. The first cases of Ebola in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province with a population of over a million people, were reported in July. At press time, the Council was scheduled to hold an interactive informal dialogue on Ebola in the DRC on 31 July.
The political situation in Burundi remains unsettled. While the Burundian government maintains that the security situation is good throughout the country, serious human rights abuses continue to be committed daily with impunity, mainly by the government and the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party. Furthermore, these actions are taking place in an environment where freedom of expression, association and assembly are suppressed as the country prepares for elections in 2020. (For more on Burundi, see the brief in this issue of the Monthly Forecast.)
Key Issues and Options
The central issues for the region are the security conditions in the CAR and eastern DRC. The overall political situation after the elections and the ramifications of the Ebola epidemic in the DRC and preparations for the 2020 elections in Burundi with their potential regional implications will continue to concern the Council.
After receiving UNOCA’s strategic review, the Council may adopt an outcome document expressing its views on its recommendations and suggested priorities or send a letter to the Secretary-General taking note of the strategic review.
Council members may continue to use the UNOCA briefing to call attention to the deteriorating situation in Cameroon and suggest ways to increase the Council’s engagement, such as by adding it to the Council’s agenda or by holding further informal meetings. The Council may also request UNOCA to make Cameroon a priority after the conclusion of UNOCA’s strategic review.
Council members are concerned about the political turmoil in several countries and the effect it could have on security and stability in the region.
During the last few UNOCA meetings, several Council members have focused their interventions on the situation in Cameroon, but there have been contrasting views on the Council’s engagement on this issue. During the 4 June briefing, the UK and the US devoted much of their statements to Cameroon. The UK said that there is a “real risk of a long-term, intractable conflict in Cameroon, which could have a negative impact on fragile regional stability, with implications for wider international peace and security”. The US expressed concern about human rights abuses and violations in the affected areas amidst reports of attacks on civilians, including extrajudicial killings. Russia has taken the view in recent meetings that the Council should only intervene if requested by Cameroon. On 4 June, it urged all parties to show restraint, noting that the conflict is an internal one and that a solution will be found in “national dialogue, with respect for human rights and the rule of law”.
The Arria-formula meeting allowed Council members to engage on the political turmoil in Cameroon through the prism of the humanitarian crisis that has resulted. Speaking about Cameroon during the 4 June meeting, the US referred to the strategic review of UNOCA’s mandate, saying that the review should ensure that the mandate “is focused on the most pressing challenges in the Central African region”.
The UK is the penholder on UNOCA.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 March 2019S/RES/2463||The MONUSCO mandate was renewed through this resolution until 20 December 2019. By that point, a strategic review will have taken place to determine the future of MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|9 April 2019S/PRST/2019/3||This was a presidential statement establishing benchmarks for suspending or progressively lifting arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR.|
|10 August 2018S/PRST/2018/17||This was a presidential statement welcoming the renewal of UNOCA’s mandate for another three years, from 1 September to 31 August 2021.|
|20 June 2019S/2019/498||This was the Secretary-General’s report on MINUSCA.|
|24 May 2019S/2019/430||This was the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on UNOCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 June 2019S/PV.8558||Mankeur Ndiaye, the Special Representative and head of MINUSCA, briefed the Council.|
|4 June 2019S/PV.8538||François Louncény Fall, Special Representative and head of UNOCA, briefed the Security Council.|