UNOCA (Central Africa)
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the implementation of the UN’s regional strategy to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Consultations are expected to follow.
The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August 2024.
Key Recent Developments
The last time the Council received a briefing on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of UNOCA was on 15 December 2021. François Louncény Fall, Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), updated Council members on a range of issues, including preparations by several countries in the region for crucial elections in 2022 and 2023, the institutional reform underway by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the fight against terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin, and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. He also provided information on the latest developments in several countries in the region, including Chad, the Central African Republic and Cameroon.
The Secretary-General’s semi-annual UNOCA report, which was due by the end of May, is expected to provide updates on the latest peace, security and development trends in Central Africa since the last report and elaborate on the activities of UNOCA, including those in support of regional efforts on peace and security. Fall visited regional leaders to discuss peace and security issues before he was due to step down as Special Representative and head of UNOCA by the end of May.
On 19 January, the ECCAS heads of state and government held a summit in Brazzaville, during which they assessed the regional peace and security situation. They expressed concerns over the challenges facing the region, including terrorism and violent extremism, maritime insecurity, the spread of small arms and light weapons, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources. At the summit, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso handed over the rotating ECCAS chairmanship to Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi.
In Chad, President Mahamat Deby had promised in April 2021 to hold an inclusive national dialogue with various Chadian political stakeholders to come up with a new constitution and pave the way for elections. But the Chadian political opposition and military groups set conditions for their participation, including, among other things, a guarantee for the safety of their members returning to the country from abroad and the release of political prisoners. This led to a pre-dialogue meeting in March hosted by Qatar in Doha to set the stage for the inclusive national dialogue on 10 May in N’Djamena.
However, the pre-dialogue process was reportedly dragged out because of disagreements over additional demands by the political and military opposition, such as banning members of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) from running in the next elections, reform of the national army and a revision of the country’s constitution. At Qatar’s request, the TMC announced on 1 May the postponement of the national dialogue to a later date. The political opposition and military groups apparently welcomed the decision, but they opposed the TMC’s intention to extend the 18-month transition period, which is supposed to end with elections in December.
The security situation remains a concern in the Anglophone northwestern and southwestern regions of Cameroon, where there is fighting between separatists and the government. Recently, the government accused separatists of attacking a village located at the border with Nigeria, burning homes and killing several people. According to OCHA, the security situation in the two regions “continue[s] to lead to displacement and negatively impact access to basic services and social cohesion. The civilian population continues to be caught in between parties to the crisis”. OCHA also reported difficulties in securing humanitarian access, attacks on healthcare and humanitarian workers, and an increasing number of incidents related to the use of improvised explosive devices.
In the Lake Chad Basin, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), composed of forces from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, has intensified its military operations against Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). MNJTF spokesperson Muhammad Dole was quoted by the media on 17 April as saying that “well over a hundred terrorists have been neutralized, including over 10 top commanders…following intelligence-driven lethal airstrikes in the Lake Chad islands by the combined air task forces”.
On 14 January, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) renewed the mandate of the MNJTF for another 12 months, effective from 1 February. The AUPSC also reaffirmed its support for the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience (RSS) of the Boko Haram-affected Areas of the Lake Chad Basin Region developed by the Lake Chad Basin Commission with the support of the AU. On 20 April, the Peacebuilding Commission also convened a meeting aimed at enhancing its support for the implementation of the regional strategy.
Key Issues and Options
The security situation in several parts of Central Africa remains a key concern for Council members. The dire security environment has also exacerbated humanitarian challenges in the region, displacing more than a million people. The mobilisation of international support to assist those displaced has been an issue. Council members may welcome the 27 April regional ministerial conference held in Yaoundé in collaboration with UNHCR on solutions to forced displacement.
The ongoing efforts to counter the continued threat of terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea have also been matters of concern to Council members. In this regard, they may reiterate their support for the important role of the MNJTF in fighting Boko Haram and ISWAP. In January, Ghana and Norway proposed a draft resolution on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Although the draft text did not garner the necessary consensus, it has been revived in recent weeks. At time of writing, a vote was scheduled on the draft on 31 May.
Another issue is the growing influence in the region of the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company, and its involvement in human rights abuses. Although there does not appear to be any indication of the group’s presence in Cameroon, there seem to be concerns that deployment may be in the offing following the defence agreement the country signed with Russia on 21 April, which is said to renew a previous agreement signed in 2015.
Political transition in Chad and elections taking place in several countries in the region over the coming two years may also draw the attention of Council members. They may continue to call for inclusive and meaningful political dialogue to address grievances and create conditions for peaceful and credible elections.
There is broad support by Council members for a holistic regional approach to dealing with the peace and security challenges in Central Africa through cooperation between UNOCA and the various regional mechanisms. Council members were unable to reach consensus on a presidential statement on UNOCA earlier this year, however, apparently because of differences on whether to refer to specific countries in the text and language related to climate change. In addition, language on the International Law of the Sea seemed to be the most contentious issue in the negotiations on the draft resolution on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Some of the country situations in the region continue to attract the attention of Council members. The UK and the US have expressed serious concerns about the situation in Cameroon, which other members, such as Russia and China, continue to consider an internal matter. Several members have also raised concerns about the destabilising role of the Wagner Group, while Russia has accused these members of instigating a coordinated campaign against the group.
The UK is the penholder on UNOCA.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNOCA
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|12 September 2019S/PRST/2019/10||This presidential statement expressed the Council’s full support for UNOCA.|
|26 November 2021S/2021/975||This was the semi-annual report on UNOCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|15 December 2021S/PV.8933||This was was a meeting on the situation in Central Africa.|