Despite some positive developments in Central Africa, the overall situation still required concerted action at all levels to address sociopolitical tensions, economic difficulties and abuses by armed groups, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative to the region told the Security Council today.
François Louncény Fall, Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), introducing the Secretary‑General’s latest report (document S/2017/995), said that the Organization was facilitating the search for a peaceful resolution of regional conflicts. Focusing on inclusive dialogue, the Secretary‑General was calling on stakeholders to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner that conformed to existing legal frameworks and ensured security in ways that conformed to international law.
Mr. Fall welcomed advancements in regional integration, particularly the free movement of persons achieved by the establishment of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community zone. UNOCA was supporting that schema as well as capacity‑building in mediation, early warning collaboration with civil society and gender mainstreaming for the secretariat of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
In many countries of the region, however, tensions remained high, he said. In Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon, serious economic difficulties combined with political and social tensions between the respective Governments and opposition movements were a cause for concern. Describing his activities to encourage dialogue and adherence to rule of law in those countries, he noted that demonstrations continued to contest the 2016 re‑election of President Ali Bongo Ondimba in Gabon.
In Cameroon, much of the country was being affected by either Boko Haram, the crisis in the Central African Republic or the anglophone separatist movement, he continued. There, too, he had encouraged genuine and inclusive dialogue, he said, but warned that prevention efforts must be increased to ensure that current tensions did not deteriorate in the context of the 2018 elections.
In the Central African Republic, attacks and grave abuses committed by armed groups, including the murder of blue helmets of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission there (MINUSCA) and humanitarian workers, were still of great concern, he said. It was urgent that the peace process be advanced through the implementation of the road map adopted by the African Union. UNOCA, in close cooperation with MINUSCA, continued to work with regional actors on the resolution of the crisis.
Boko Haram was still maintaining its ability to perpetrate attacks and horrible abuse and exacerbated the many complex problems in many areas in the region, he reported. Therefore, redoubled efforts were required by all partners to address the threat in a holistic manner. International support was crucial to implement the conclusions of the recent regional conference organized by the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
Similarly, international support was needed for the African Union’s Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army, as that group continued abuses against local populations following the withdrawal of Ugandan and United States forces from its zone of operation. It was important for the Union and troop contributors to quickly agree on the reconfiguration of the Regional Task Force and on an increase of support for the training of the Central African Armed Forces in order to meet the threat.
Turning to other activities of his Office, he said that, along with the United Nations Office for West Africa, it was supporting stronger collaboration between ECCAS and the Economic Community of West African States. In addition, implementation of the relevant resolutions on women, peace and security was being advanced by the November launch of a national action plan by Cameroon which would encourage other countries to follow suit. He also described his recent engagement with a pan‑African youth forum in Libreville and with the ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.
In addition, he said that UNOCA continued to focus on efforts to enhance the coherence and coordination of overall United Nations activities in Central Africa. That aim included collaboration with resident coordinators and country teams to engage national authorities on sensitive political issues as well as on longer‑term efforts to formulate national and cross‑border peacebuilding plans, with the support of the Peacebuilding Fund.
Uruguay’s representative affirmed the importance of the work of UNOCA as well as the need for regional cooperation to not only stem the activities of armed groups, but empower women in Central Africa. However, he expressed concern about the improper use of force, arbitrary arrests and a climate of impunity, as well as other violations of human rights. Those elements created impediments to the holding of peaceful elections.
Bolivia’s representative, underscoring the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts through mediation and inclusive political dialogue, said that a sub‑regional strategy was crucial to address many of the area’s problems. He suggested that the Group of Five for the Sahel initiative could be replicated in Central Africa for the fight against Boko Haram. He added that countries of the region, with the support of the international community, should address the root causes of extremist violence, including the illicit exploitation of natural resources.