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
Assessing the overall situation in the Central African region, the Secretary-General wrote in his 1 December 2020 report that “armed violence in Central Africa continue[s] unabated, with serious implications for the subregion’s stability and the humanitarian situation, which has worsened dramatically”. Underlying political tensions in the region have also been brought to the fore as a result of a full elections calendar in 2021, including in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Republic of Congo, and São Tomé and Príncipe.
On 11 April, Chad held presidential elections in which the incumbent, President Idriss Déby, appeared to have won a sixth term. That same day, a rebel group, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), attacked Chad from Libya, advancing toward N’Djamena, Chad’s capital. On 19 April, President Déby was apparently killed while at the scene of the fighting between Chadian government forces and the FACT. On 20 April, the army said a transitional military council led by Déby’s 37-year-old son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby, would take power for 18 months until elections could be held. Opposition parties denounced the creation of the council as a “coup d’état”, as it did not follow constitutional rules for succession, under which the Speaker of the National Assembly becomes interim president. On 26 April, the military appointed a civilian politician, Albert Pahimi Padacké, as transitional prime minister. That same day, Special Representative Fall attended Déby’s funeral in N’Djamena, where he also met with General Déby to offer the UN’s support to “find consensual and inclusive solutions” to promote Chad’s peace, stability and sustainable development. On 14 May, the AU Peace and Security Council issued a communique, which, amongst other things, emphasised both the “imperative of a civilian-led, inclusive and consensual transitional process in Chad” and that “the transition to democratic rule should be completed within [an] 18-month period”.
Parts of Cameroon continue to experience violent unrest. In the country’s anglophone north-western and south-western regions, sporadic fighting between separatists and the Cameroonian government persists, while jihadist attacks in Cameroon’s Far North continue. The violence has taken a heavy toll, particularly on civilians. Reports of the heightened use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and extrajudicial killings have further increased tensions. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), an organisation that collects conflict- and crisis-related data, there have been 1,321 reported fatalities in Cameroon related to the violence in the past year. Some estimates suggest that over 4,000 people have been killed in the anglophone regions since violence began there in 2016. According to OCHA, over 1,427 people were forced to flee their homes in March because of the violence, and over one million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in the anglophone regions.
In the Republic of Congo, presidential elections were held on 21 March, with Denis Sassou Nguesso, the incumbent president who has ruled Congo for much of the last 42 years, announced as the winner with 88 percent of the vote. Though the polling took place in a largely peaceful atmosphere, Congo’s political opposition boycotted the vote. Fall attended Sassou Nguesso’s swearing–in ceremony in Brazzaville on 16 April. He had previously visited the country on 18 February, when he met with the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Claude Gakosso, to discuss Congo’s presidency of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
With regard to Burundi, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on 4 December 2020 that called on the government of Burundi to cooperate with the UN to address a number of challenges that the country faces while also requesting the Secretary-General to cease providing periodic reporting on the situation in Burundi and instead cover the country in the context of his regular reporting on Central Africa and the Great Lakes region. The presidential statement followed an improved security situation in Burundi, a largely peaceful presidential election in May 2020, and a smooth transition of power after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza the following month. Since December’s presidential statement, the political and security situation in the country has remained stable.
Key Issues and Options
The security situation in the region remains a key concern for the Council, especially with regard to the ongoing situations in Chad, Cameroon and the CAR, where a high level of elections-related violence led to instability in December 2020 and January. On Chad, the Council may wish to adopt a press statement, reiterating the AU’s call for a timely transition to democratic rule.
The threat of climate change to peace and security in the region is of concern to a number of Council members, as is the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Another key issue for the Council to consider will be how to ensure that there is a clear delineation between the roles of UNOCA and the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region with regard to the Secretary-General’s regular reporting on Burundi.
Council members are likely to want to use the June meeting on UNOCA to take stock of the situation in the region with a view to renewing the office’s mandate later this summer.
There appears to be consensus in the Council regarding UNOCA’s role in Central Africa, with a 12 September 2019 presidential statement illustrating Council unity in its support for UNOCA’s mandate.
There are some differences, however, about the role UNOCA should play in addressing specific 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 conditions in that country. Other members, such as China and Russia, maintain that the situation is an internal matter, and that the Council should intervene only upon Cameroon’s request. Burundi has often been a deeply divisive issue for the Council. However, this may be less so since the adoption of December’s presidential statement. Finally, Council members remain divided on how to address the issue of climate and security.
The UK is the penholder on UNOCA. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA
|1 December 2020S/2020/1154||This was the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on UNOCA.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|4 December 2020S/PRST/2020/12||This presidential statement requested the Secretary-General to cover Burundi in the context of regular reporting on Central Africa and the Great Lakes Region.|
|12 September 2019S/PRST/2019/10||This presidential statement expressed the Council’s full support for UNOCA.|