UN Regional Office for Central Africa: Presidential Statement
Tomorrow (10 August), the Council is set to adopt a presidential statement on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), welcoming the renewal of its mandate for another three years, from 1 September to 31 August 2021.
The backdrop for the adoption was the forthcoming expiration of UNOCA’s current three-year mandate on 31 August, based on an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General (S/2015/554) and the President of the Security Council (S/2015/555). The latest UNOCA report (S/2018/521), released on 1 June, recommended that UNOCA’s current three-year mandate be extended for another three-year period. Council members have routinely expressed their support for the work of UNOCA, including in statements made during the briefing by the Special Representative and head of UNOCA François Louncény Fall on 13 June (S/PV.8284).
During the negotiations, one permanent member questioned the utility and purpose of the office, however, and took the position that the UNOCA mandate should only be renewed for one year, after which the Council could review the matter again. This position was met with resistance from other Council members. A compromise was found whereby the mandate will be renewed for three years but, at the same time, the Secretary-General is requested to conduct a strategic review on the scope of UNOCA’s mandate and activities.
The review, which is to be completed by 1 August 2019, is to provide the Council with recommendations for areas of improvement, including with regard to the coherence of UN activities in countries under UNOCA’s mandate, and for new or refocused priorities. The presidential statement conveys the Council’s intention to consider these recommendations, including any proposed changes to the mandate, by 31 August 2019.
The presidential statement recalls the important work of UNOCA and notes that UNOCA’s priorities are to include:
• to perform good offices on behalf of the Secretary-General;
• to assist the countries of the sub-region in consolidating peace and resolving tensions resulting from the various elections that took place in the period from 2015-2018, and to assist countries facing institutional crises related to electoral processes;
• to work with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and its member states to lay the groundwork for the structural prevention of election-related violence;
• to enhance the capacities of the ECCAS secretariat in conflict prevention; early warning; women, peace and security; mediation and other areas, including through continuing to conduct joint assessments and visits with ECCAS; and
• to work closely with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel to address transregional issues such as maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, conflict between farmers and herders, and combatting Boko Haram.
The presidential statement also touches upon several other issues relevant to the region such as the flow of small arms, transnational organised crime, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the adverse effects of climate change on the region. The presidential statement further addresses specific conflicts in the region. It expresses the Council’s concern at the grave security situation and related violations and abuses of human rights in parts of Central Africa, in particular the continuing terrorist activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the Lake Chad Basin, the persistent violence perpetrated by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), and the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Disagreement arose among Council members on how the presidential statement should address the situation in Cameroon, a country not on the Council’s agenda. Since late 2016, there has been unrest in Cameroon’s anglophone regions, rooted in claims of long-standing political and economic discrimination by the francophone authorities against the minority anglophone population. Widespread protests against the government, numerous clashes with security forces, several protestor deaths, general strikes, arbitrary arrests, and blocking of access to the Internet have occurred.
During the Council’s meeting on 13 June, the US said that the situation in Cameroon demands the attention of both the Security Council and UNOCA, and that the “stakes in Cameroon are too high for this crisis to continue without being addressed”. During the negotiations, a couple of Council members felt that the text should include a paragraph dedicated to the situation. This received pushback from a few Council members, including two permanent members. Ultimately, while the agreed text does not include a separate paragraph on Cameroon, it refers to the Council’s deep concern over “the worrying recent increase in violence in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon”.