June 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2024
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UNOCA (Central Africa) 

Expected Council Action  

In June, 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  

Chad conducted a presidential election in May, marking the conclusion of a transition period that began following the death of President Idriss Déby Itno in April 2021. According to media reports, violent incidents marred the election, and opposition groups alleged that there was electoral fraud. The killing of opposition leader Yaya Dillo in February overshadowed the pre-electoral period, and the circumstances surrounding his death remain contentious. The Chadian government claims that Dillo died in a confrontation with security forces, but opposition factions contend that he was assassinated.

Among the dozen presidential candidates were Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, the late president’s son, who served as the head of the transitional government for the last three years, and Succès Masra, a former opposition figure who returned from exile to assume the role of prime minister in January. Announcing the provisional election results, Chad’s electoral commission declared Itno the winner with 61 percent of the vote. Ahead of this announcement, Masra, who only garnered 18 percent of the vote according to the electoral commission, appeared on social media declaring himself the winner and calling upon his supporters to mobilise peacefully to assert his victory. Chadian soldiers were deployed in N’Djamena, the capital, anticipating potential post-electoral violence. In a 10 May press statement, Abarry called on Chadian political actors to exercise restraint and use legal avenues to resolve disputes. On 23 May, Itno was inaugurated at a ceremony attended by regional leaders.

Following the August 2023 coup in Gabon that led to the overthrow of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled the country since 2009, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) suspended Gabon from all its activities. It also temporarily relocated the ECCAS headquarters from Libreville to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) followed by suspending Gabon from all activities and organs of the AU until constitutional order is restored.

The Gabonese transitional government has been exerting efforts to show its commitment to the restoration of constitutional order. It announced in November 2023 plans to hold elections in August 2025 and convened a national dialogue in April in which more than 600 people participated, including opposition and civil society representatives. The meeting reportedly concluded with the submission of several recommendations to the president of the Gabonese transitional government, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema. These included a two-year transition period, as proposed by the transitional government, that could be extended for another 12 months under exceptional circumstances, and a seven-year presidential term, renewable once. However, the proposal to suspend political parties until new political rules are issued appeared controversial during the national dialogue. Subsequently, a new constitution is expected to be submitted for a referendum to pave the way for elections at the end of the transition period.

In recent months, Nguema undertook a regional tour on which he sought the support of several ECCAS member states for lifting the suspensions imposed by ECCAS and the AUPSC. At its ordinary summit, held in Equatorial Guinea on 9 March, ECCAS decided to lift the suspensions imposed on Gabon and to temporarily relocate the ECCAS headquarters from Libreville to Malabo. The summit also instructed the ECCAS Commission President to undertake an advocacy mission to explain this decision to the AU and the UN.

Piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea have continued to decline, according to Omar Touray, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, speaking at the fourth annual meeting of the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) in Abuja, Nigeria, on 18 April. (The ICC was established in 2014 by ECOWAS, ECCAS, and the Gulf of Guinea Commission to serve as a coordination centre on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.) Abarry also attended the meeting and expressed UNOCA’s support for regional partners in strengthening maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. “When UNOCA’s mandate is renewed this August, we will ensure that the international partnership on maritime security is strengthened and expanded”, he told the meeting.

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 the terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The Secretary-General’s 30 November 2023 UNOCA report notes, however, that “economic hardships continued to drive vulnerable young persons towards illegal activities, including joining extremist groups”, adding that insecurity has disrupted traditional transhumance routes, “affecting local economies and exacerbating resource competition, food insecurity, and displacement”.

Peacebuilding Commission-Related Developments

From 13 to 15 May, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Ambassador Sérgio França Danese (Brazil), visited São Tomé and Príncipe. The visit was organised to follow up on the Commission’s first meeting on the country on 15 January, during which Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada presented the government’s plans to reform its justice and security sectors. Special Representative Abarry also participated in the meeting and appealed to the international community to contribute to the implementation of the November 2023 recommendations of a joint UN-ECCAS strategic assessment mission, which forms a basis for mobilising resources and carrying out reforms in the justice and security sectors.

Ahead of the Council’s 24 April bi-annual meeting on the Great Lakes, the PBC sent the Council a written advisory in a letter of 12 April. The PBC advised the Council to consider encouraging the ongoing efforts to revitalise the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, including by reiterating the need for the Framework’s signatories to fulfil their commitments to promote judicial cooperation among Great Lakes countries.

Key Issues and Options  

The political and security situations in several parts of Central Africa continue to be key concerns for the Council. In this regard, Council members are likely to be interested in hearing Abarry’s assessment of transition processes and elections in the region. The election in Chad and the situation in Gabon may draw the attention of Council members.

Additionally, Council members could be keen to understand the regional implications of the fighting in Sudan and its effects on Chad and the Central African Republic. In its January report, the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee noted that the supply lines for military equipment and fuel used by the Rapid Support Forces, one of the Sudanese conflict parties, passed through neighbouring countries, including Chad.

The continued threat of terrorism in the Lake Chad basin and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea also remain matters of concern. The implementation of the Regional Stabilization, Recovery, and Resilience Strategy for Areas Affected by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin Region, developed by the Lake Chad Basin Commission with the support of the AU, could be of particular interest in this regard.

Another major issue for several Council members is the adverse effects of climate change in the Central Africa region, with worsening drought and receding water levels in Lake Chad, which has weakened livelihoods and exacerbated communal violence.

Looking ahead to the UNOCA mandate renewal in August, an option for Council members is to aim to conclude the negotiations on the draft presidential statement on UNOCA that has been lingering for two years. Council members had been negotiating a similar draft presidential statement on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), with climate language proving a major sticking point. Their ability to agree on language, and adopt a UNOWAS statement, in May could provide a basis for achieving consensus on the UNOCA draft.

Council and Broader 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. The two-year effort to produce a presidential statement on UNOCA has stalled over differences on language on climate, peace, and security.

Some country situations in the region, such as the situation in north-western and south-western Cameroon, remain a focus for some Council member states, which continue to call for dialogue to find a lasting political solution to this longstanding crisis. In June, Council members may pay particular attention to the situation in Chad. The country hosts a large number of refugees from Sudan, where the ongoing fighting has caused major displacement. Chad has also been playing a significant role in countering the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin. Chad, which hosts French and American forces, in April requested the US to end its operations at an air base near N’Djamena, the capital. Subsequently, the US announced the temporary withdrawal of some troops pending a review of its security cooperation with the country.

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

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Security Council Presidential Statement
12 September 2019S/PRST/2019/10 This presidential statement expressed the Council’s full support for UNOCA.
Secretary-General’s Report
30 November 2023S/2023/934 This was the semi-annual report on UNOCA.
Security Council Meeting Record
13 December 2023S/PV.9505 This was a meeting on the situation in Central Africa.

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