Briefing and Consultations on Central Africa and the Lord’s Resistance Army
Tomorrow (13 June), François Loucény Fall, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), is expected to brief the Security Council on the semi-annual report on UNOCA and the implementation of the UN regional strategy to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The briefing will be followed by consultations.
Regarding the LRA, the US decided in March to withdraw its special forces and logistical support from the AU Regional Task Force (RTF) that has been fighting the group. Uganda, which has been the main contributing force to the RTF, subsequently announced it would withdraw its 2,000 troops in the CAR. South Sudan also announced that it would end its participation. While the LRA’s fighting capacity has been significantly degraded, which was the reason cited by the US and Uganda for their decision, the Secretary-General’s 31 May report (S/2017/465) indicates that the LRA remains a significant threat to populations in affected areas and notes the potential for the LRA to exploit the resulting vacuum created by these forces’ departure.
A number of members may express concerns over the security vacuum and the ability of the AU and RTF-contributing countries (the CAR, whose forces need further training before they can be deployed, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to sustain efforts that have contributed to the weakening of the LRA. In light of the departure of the forces, the AU Peace and Security Council urged the Council in a 12 May communiqué on the LRA to take into account the disarmament of the LRA in the mandate of MINUSCA.
The Secretary-General’s report covers other political and security trends in the Central African region during the past six months. This includes providing an overview of the unrest since late 2016 between Cameroon’s Anglophone regions and the government, which has resulted in widespread protests, numerous clashes with security forces and several protestor deaths, general strikes, arbitrary arrests, and the shutting down of the internet from 17 January to 20 April in the two Anglophone regions. The unrest was triggered by grievances over the imposition of French speaking judges and teachers in the two regions, and is rooted in longstanding political and economic discrimination against the Anglophone population.
Fall has paid close attention to Cameroon. He has traveled five times to Cameroon since becoming the head of UNOCA in November 2016, with two of the trips focused primarily on the crisis. Most recently he attended the 44th ministerial meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa that took place in Yaoundé from 29 May to 2 June. Members may be interested in Fall’s assessment of actions taken by the government to calm tensions, such as setting up the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism and more recently restoring the internet, as well as his views on the risk of the situation deteriorating. Despite such measures, three Anglophone leaders along with other activists are being tried at a military tribunal on charges of terrorism. Members may want to know how the UN plans to stay engaged on this situation.
Also documented in the Secretary-General’s report are developments in the conflict with Boko Haram, in particular, in Cameroon’s Far North region and the Lac region of Chad. Despite encouraging progress in combatting Boko Haram by regional forces, the terrorist group remains a “serious threat” and the continued fighting has deepened the humanitarian crisis. The UNOCA report and Fall’s briefing represents the first update on Boko Haram since the Council’s visiting mission to the Lake Chad Basin from 2 to 7 March and the 31 March adoption of resolution 2349 on the situation. Some members may express concerns that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that refoulement of Nigerian refugees has continued despite the 2 March Tripartite Agreement that Cameroon had signed, the day before Council members met with the government, to end such involuntary return. During meetings with the Council, government representatives had assured members of its commitment to ensuring that all returns would be with consent.
Council members are likely to be interested in the regional mediation efforts undertaken by the Special Representative to address the continued instability and violence in the Central African Republic (CAR). With this meeting following Monday’s briefing on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), members may seek to explore what more UNOCA can do to support MINUSCA’s political efforts and its engagement with regional countries and organisations.
Other issues covered in the report include continuing tensions linked to elections from 2016 in the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Chad. The crisis in the Pool region of the Republic of the Congo, which began after the elections in March 2016, continues, and members may want more information about the level of violence and armed groups. Fall last travelled to Brazzaville from 25 to 29 April, to discuss the situation in the Pool region.