UNOCA (Central Africa)
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’s regional strategy to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August 2021.
Key Recent Developments
The region covered by UNOCA includes several situations that are on the Council’s agenda, including Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Following last year’s strategic review of the UNOCA mandate, the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the office’s role in promoting inclusive political dialogue in non-mission settings, including in Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and São Tome and Principe. During his most recent briefing to the Council on 9 December 2019, Fall said that the overall political and security situation in Central Africa “remains worrisome”.
In Burundi, presidential elections were held on 20 May. The elections will determine a successor to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in 2015, precipitating mass demonstrations and an increase in violence and repression against his opponents. Seven candidates competed in the elections. Evariste Ndayishimiye, Secretary-General of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD)—Burundi’s ruling party—and Agathon Rwasa of the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), the leading opposition party, were considered the top two candidates. According to media reports, polling took place in a largely incident–free environment. There were, however, reports of campaign violence and of the arrest of at least 140 members of the political opposition during the campaign. According to the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the electoral campaign was “marred by a spiral of violence and political intolerance”. On 11 May, the Burundian government informed the East African Community (EAC) that EAC election observers would be required to quarantine for 14 days because of COVID-19; consequently, the EAC was unable to undertake its observation activities. In addition, the World Health Organization’s country representative and another three WHO staff were expelled from Burundi on 12 May. On 25 May, provisional results were announced with Ndayishimiye winning 68 percent of the vote and Rwasa with 24 percent.
In Cameroon, there continues to be unrest in the anglophone north-western and south-western regions, grounded in claims of political and economic discrimination by the francophone authorities against the anglophone minority. These tensions have been exacerbated recently; on 9 February, Cameroon held parliamentary and local elections, with reports of electoral violence and disruptions in anglophone regions of the country, while 22 people were killed in an attack in the north–western anglophone village of Ngarbuh on 14 February. On 21 April, a commission of inquiry established by the government determined that the country’s army had been responsible for the killing of at least 13 of the victims during an operation in Ngarbuh. On 13 May, Fall visited Cameroon, where he met with President Paul Biya to discuss peace and security in Central Africa, regional integration, and regional challenges presented by COVID-19.
In the CAR, there has been an overall decrease in violence since the Political Peace Agreement was signed on 6 February 2019 in Bangui. However, violent incidents and human rights violations continue, and full implementation of the peace agreement has not materialised. Violent clashes between rival armed groups in late April and early May in Ndélé in CAR’s north-east left at least 27 civilians dead. Presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for December 2020 and early 2021. In that regard, the return of former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia to the CAR from exile on 15 December 2019 and 10 January, respectively, has been a source of tension. In addition, deputies from the CAR National Assembly proposed a bill in early April that would have allowed President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to remain in power if elections were to be delayed because of COVID-19. Civil society organisations and the political opposition denounced the assembly bill, which was later withdrawn.
In the DRC, President Félix Tshisekedi has been active in promoting cooperation between the DRC and its neighbours. This regional outreach comes in the context of efforts to stabilise the eastern DRC, which remains volatile. While maintaining the dual strategic priorities of protecting civilians and supporting the stabilisation and strengthening of state institutions, the renewal of the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) for one year in resolution 2502 on 19 December 2019 also included a request that the Secretary-General work with the government to create an exit strategy for the mission. That strategy is due by 20 October. In general, Council members have maintained a positive view of the DRC’s political situation, with concern focusing mainly on violence in the DRC’s east.
Key Issues and Options
The security situation in the region remains a key concern for the Council, especially with regard to the situations in the CAR and eastern DRC.
Recent elections in Cameroon and Burundi and upcoming elections in the CAR are also a concern. As the 12 September 2019 president statement noted, one of UNOCA’s priorities is to assist countries “facing institutional crises related to electoral processes” while working with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
The COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on Central Africa is also of concern to UNOCA and the Council.
There appears to be consensus on the Council regarding UNOCA’s potentially stabilising role in Central Africa, with the 12 September presidential statement illustrating the Council’s unity regarding its ongoing support for UNOCA’s mandate.
There are some differences, however, about the role UNOCA should play in addressing different situations. Some Council members, such as the UK and the US, have expressed concern about the situation in Cameroon, arguing that UNOCA should focus on the security and humanitarian situation in that country. Other members, such as China and Russia, maintain that the situation in Cameroon is an internal matter and that the Council should intervene only upon Cameroon’s request.
The UK is the penholder on UNOCA. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs both the 2127 Central African Republic (CAR) Sanctions Committee and the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA
|29 November 2019S/2019/913||This was the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on UNOCA.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|12 September 2019S/PRST/2019/10||This presidential statement expressed the Council’s full support for UNOCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|6 December 2019S/PV.8679||The Council was briefed by François Louncény Fall, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), on the situation in Central Africa and the latest report on the activities of UNOCA|