Central African Republic and UN Office in Central Africa/Lord’s Resistance Army
On Monday morning (25 November), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a presidential statement on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the implementation of the regional strategy on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In the afternoon, the Council will be briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as on the Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/677) on options for international support to the AU International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA). The Secretary-General of the Economic Community of the Central African States, Ahmad Allam-Mi, will also participate. This briefing will be followed by consultations.
The draft presidential statement on UNOCA/LRA is likely to urge UNOCA, as well as the UN political and peacekeeping missions in the region, to enhance their efforts in support of the implementation of the UN Regional Strategy to Address the Threat and Impact of the Activities of the LRA, as well as their cooperation with the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the LRA. In the statement, it seems that the Council will also request the Secretary-General to keep it informed of the activities of UNOCA and of the LRA, through a single report on UNOCA and the LRA to be submitted before 15 May 2014.
While it seems that the negotiations over the text were relatively smooth, one issue of contention was over the use of the word “atrocities” in the text to describe the actions of the LRA. Apparently Russia broke silence on the draft text this morning, requesting that “atrocities” be replaced with “crimes”, claiming that there was no UN legal instrument where atrocities is used to describe such situations. However, there was pushback from the US and Australia who felt strongly that the word “atrocities” should be retained, particularly as it has been used in texts referring to the LRA in the past, including in the most recent presidential statement on the issue (S/PRST/2013/6 ). At press time a revised text had been put under silence.
Earlier this week the AU Special Envoy on the LRA, along Abou Moussa, Francisco Madeira, addressed the Council, updating it on the efforts of the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA (AU RCI-LRA). He also informed the Council of a commitment received from the interim-president of the CAR, Michel Djotodia, to cooperate with the AU RCI-LRA, which led to the resumption of anti-LRA activities in the CAR on 9 August. Madeira said that this pressure has brought LRA leader Joseph Kony, an International Criminal Court indictee, to try to contact the CAR authorities to negotiate LRA fighters’ surrender and resettlement in the CAR. According to Madiera, this was a calculated move by Kony to buy time and relocate many of his fighters to north-eastern CAR.
Eliasson is expected to brief on the situation in the CAR and on the Secretary-General’s report on options for international support to MISCA, including the possible option of its transformation into a UN peacekeeping operation. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayó-Brook Zerihoun will also be present to answer questions and provide further information.
The Secretary-General’s report notes the continuing dire situation in the CAR, the need for an immediate response and the logistical, strategic and operational gaps in MISCA, which is scheduled to take over from ECCAS forces on 19 December. With the continuing deterioration in the situation, particularly in light of increasing sectarian violence, Council members are likely to be keen to have a frank assessment from Eliasson of the current security situation.
With respect to options for international support to MISCA, the report lists five possibilities: mobilising bilateral and multilateral assistance; establishing a UN trust fund of voluntary contributions from UN member states; creating a limited support package funded by assessed and voluntary contributions to cover specific MISCA tasks; setting up a comprehensive logistical support package in order to assist MISCA; and transforming MISCA into a UN peacekeeping mission. The report indicates that the Secretary-General is supportive of the last option.
It is likely that soon after the consultations, France, the penholder on the CAR, will circulate a draft resolution and commence negotiations in order to adopt a resolution during its Council presidency in December. There appears to be general agreement among Council members that they must act quickly in light of the situation on the ground but there may be differences over what would be the most appropriate action at this point.
Several Council members are of the view that a UN peacekeeping mission alongside the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR is inevitable and is the most viable solution. But some Council members may be hesitant to authorise such a force, at least at present, particularly as the AU itself is of the view that MISCA should operate independently for a period of time before such a step is taken. In any case, Council members are well aware that such a force will take time to establish. In the meantime the possibility of showing some form of support for regional efforts may be the more likely first step. Fiscal constraints may also be a consideration as differences exist between Council members as to the extent and form that any logistical and financial assistance to MISCA should take.