December 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2023
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UNOCA (Central Africa) 

Expected Council Action  

In December, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations 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). Special Representative and head of UNOCA Abdou Abarry is expected to brief.

The mandate of UNOCA expires on 31 August 2024.

Key Recent Developments  

Following a controversial election in Gabon (an elected Security Council member from 2022-2023) in August, military leaders staged a coup overthrowing President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled the country since 2009. General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, one of the coup leaders, was inaugurated as the “transitional president” of the Gabonese Republic on 4 September. During the inauguration, he expressed his commitment to restoring constitutional order and appointed a civilian prime minister. According to media reports, the Gabonese military leaders announced plans to hold elections in August 2025, a process that they say will be approved through a national dialogue involving civil society groups and other stakeholders. They have also indicated that they would propose a new constitution at the end of October 2024, which will be submitted for a referendum in November-December 2024.

Following the coup, Abarry met with Oligui Nguema and Ondimba, who was later released from house arrest. (Ondimba’s wife has reportedly been charged with money laundering, forgery, and falsification of records.)  Gabon was the chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) when the coup took place; ECCAS suspended Gabon from all activities of the organisation but stopped short of imposing sanctions on the country. The regional leaders also decided to move the ECCAS headquarters temporarily from Libreville to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, until the restoration of constitutional order. The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who was the Vice-Chair of ECCAS, assumed the rotating chairmanship of the organisation, and the president of the Central African Republic (CAR), Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was appointed as its facilitator to engage with the Gabonese military leaders with the goal of restoring constitutional order. Recently, Oligui Nguema has been on a regional tour to request that ECCAS members allow Gabon back into the regional fold.

On 31 August, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) decided to suspend Gabon from all activities of the AU and its organs and institutions until constitutional order is restored. On 23 October, the AUPSC welcomed the efforts by ECCAS and the latest developments in Gabon, namely the appointment of a civilian prime minister and the formation of a transitional government. The AUPSC urged the members of the transitional government to refrain from presenting their candidatures for the elections to be held at the end of the transition period and underscored the need to ensure inclusive constitutional and institutional reform processes by promoting the participation of all stakeholders, including women and youth.

In June, members of the National Transitional Council in Chad adopted a new constitution to pave the way for the return of constitutional order in that country, which has been undergoing transition following the death of former president Idriss Déby in April 2021. A referendum on the new constitution is expected to be held in December. On 20 September, a high-level event on “The return to constitutional order in Chad: challenges and perspectives” was held in New York on the margins of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly; bilateral, regional, and international partners participated in the event. In a joint statement at the end of the meeting, the participants took note of the evolution of the transition in Chad and reiterated their support for the restoration of constitutional order within the prescribed time frame through a peaceful approach that includes women, youth, and marginalised groups.

In October 2022, ECCAS appointed the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, to be the facilitator of the Chadian political transition process. On 2 May, Tshisekedi met with Succès Masra, the leader of a Chadian opposition group known as the Transformers, in Kinshasa to discuss the political transition in Chad. Masra fled Chad last year after the military government suspended his party and six others following protests against the military government’s decision to extend the transition. On 1 November, Tshisekedi announced an agreement between the military government and the Transformers in Kinshasa that allowed Masra to return to the country on 3 November. Masra called for reconciliation at a rally in N’Djamena on 19 November, but other Chadian opposition groups that remain in exile reportedly rejected the agreement and accused Masra of collaborating with the transitional government.

In Cameroon, the security situation remains a concern in the Anglophone northwest and southwest regions. According to media reports, several people were killed in recent fighting in these areas. The Secretary-General strongly condemned attacks on civilians and urged all Cameroonian stakeholders to work towards a political solution to the crisis in these regions. In a 20 January statement following several months of secret talks reportedly held in Toronto and other locations in Québec, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly welcomed an agreement between the Cameroonian government and parties from the Anglophone regions to find a negotiated solution to the long-standing conflict. However, media reports quoted Cameroonian government spokesperson René Emmanuel Sadi as saying that his government “has never entrusted any country with the role of facilitator or mediator”. Cameroon is expected to hold general elections in 2025, and the country’s political elites appear to be competing to succeed President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982. Biya reportedly reshuffled his senior military personnel following the coup in neighbouring Gabon in August.

Key Issues and Options  

The political and security situations in several parts of Central Africa continue to be a key concern for the Council. Council members are likely to be interested in hearing Abarry’s assessment of developments in Gabon following the coup and the political transition in Chad. Additionally, they may be keen to understand the regional implications of the fighting in Sudan and its impact on the situation in Chad and the CAR.

The other major issue relates to the elections that are taking place in countries in the region in 2023. Of particular interest to Council members could be the elections in the DRC in December and Chad in 2024.

The continued threat of terrorism in the Lake Chad basin and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea also remain matters of concern.

An option for Council members is to try to conclude the negotiations on the draft presidential statement on UNOCA that has been lingering for more than a year.

Council Dynamics  

Council members support a holistic regional approach to addressing the peace and security challenges in Central Africa, based on cooperation between UNOCA and the various regional mechanisms. They tend to underscore challenges in the region related to: political transitions; humanitarian crises, including the rising number of refugees and internally displaced persons; the threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism; and the adverse effects of climate change. Some members also continue to raise concerns about the destabilising role of the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company, and its reported involvement in human rights abuses in the region, particularly in the CAR.

It seems that there have been repeated attempts to revive the discussions on the draft presidential statement on UNOCA that was initiated last year; however, Council members have not yet been able to build the necessary consensus on the text. Differences remain regarding the language on climate, peace, and security.

Gabon and the UK are the co-penholders on UNOCA.

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Security Council Presidential Statements
12 September 2019S/PRST/2019/10 This presidential statement expressed the Council’s full support for UNOCA.
Secretary-General’s Reports
31 May 2023S/2023/389 Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central Africa and the activities of the
United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa.
Security Council Meeting Records
5 June 2023S/PV.9338 The meeting record is 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).

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