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Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Martha Pobee's Briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Region, 8 June 2022

Madame la Présidente,
Distingués membres du Conseil de sécurité,
Je vous remercie de l’opportunité d'informer aujourd'hui le Conseil de sécurité sur la situation en Afrique centrale et sur les activités du Bureau régional des Nations Unies pour l'Afrique centrale (UNOCA). Permettez-moi tout d'abord de rendre hommage au travail du Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général pour l'Afrique centrale, M. François Louncény Fall, dont le mandat s'est terminé la semaine dernière.  Au cours des derniers cinq ans et demi de son mandat, M. Fall a contribué à l’élargissement des activités de l'UNOCA à travers ses bons offices, le renforcement des capacités régionales en matière de prévention et de résolution des conflits, et l’appui à la coordination et la cohérence de l'action des Nations Unies en matière de paix et de sécurité en Afrique centrale. Je tiens à remercier M. Fall pour ses services et son dévouement personnel en faveur de la paix.
Madam President,
Several countries in the sub-region are preparing for crucial electoral processes. For the current year, legislative and local elections are expected to be held in the Republic of the Congo in July, general elections in Angola in August, legislative, regional and local elections in São Tomé and Príncipe in September, and legislative elections in Equatorial Guinea with a date to be determined. In 2023, presidential elections are expected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Chad is also expected to hold general elections at the end of the transitional process. The United Nations has been clear in its message: all stakeholders must work towards the creation of conditions conducive for credible, inclusive and peaceful elections, in line with democratic principles. UNOCA and other presences in the region will pursue good offices, wherever required, to encourage inclusive and meaningful political dialogue in countries preparing for elections. The Office will also encourage Governments to widen the democratic space and further democratic gain, including through an expansion of women and youth’s participation in the elections, both as candidates and voters.
Madam President,
Some countries in the sub-region continue to face political and security challenges. In some instances, these challenges, if not addressed, could risk impacting neighbouring countries and the sub-region.
In Cameroon, challenges persist, including the conflict in the North-West and South-West Regions, the crisis generated by Boko Haram affiliated and splinter groups in the Far North Region, and the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Central African Republic in the East. During my own visit with former SRSG Fall to Cameroon in March, I was able to engage in fruitful exchanges with national authorities and various stakeholders on the different peace and security challenges the country faces. The situation in the North-West and South-West Regions continues to be of particular concern, as violence is continuing.  It is crucial for the international community to step up support to national efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in line with the conclusions of the Major National Dialogue and international standards.
In Chad, despite delays in the timeline, the political transition continues to be on course. However, the most important challenges remain ahead. It is our hope that the Doha pre-dialogue with the armed opposition will lead to an inclusive peace agreement, including a viable process for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of Chadian armed groups present in neighbouring countries, particularly in Libya. I would like to underline here that a DDR process in line with international standards will facilitate the mobilization of support from the international community. The UN stands ready to support a donor conference to help mobilise funding for the implementation of the transition roadmap as and when the national dialogue process gains further traction. Meanwhile, I am concerned about the recent violence among groups of illegal goldminers, some of whom are allegedly from neighbouring countries, in an area of north-western Chad near the border with Libya. These clashes have resulted in at least 100 people killed, many injured, and significant displacement. In coordination with the transitional authorities, we will explore options for humanitarian support, while also cognizant of the need to address root causes of instability in this area.
Madam President,
UNOCA has continued its support to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in their efforts to implement institutional reform. UNOCA has also been working to strengthen the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Peace and Conflict Prevention in Central Africa (COPAC). We look forward to hearing from Ambassador Gilberto Da Piedade Veríssimo, President of the ECCAS Commission and Ms. Danielle Nlate, Vice President of COPAC, during this morning’s session. I welcome Ambassador Veríssimo’s participation in the meeting of the Heads of UN presences in Central Africa earlier this year. UNOCA will continue to mobilize and coordinate UN system-wide support to building the capacity of ECCAS.
Madam President,
The Central Africa region continues to face persisting security challenges that are best addressed through regional cooperation. Last week, I briefed this Council on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I remain concerned by the activity of all armed groups in the eastern part of the country. In particular, the heinous attacks on civilians by the ADF and CODECO, and attacks by the M23 movement on Congolese security forces and MONUSCO. These attacks are exacerbating humanitarian crises, harming bilateral relations at different levels, and contributing to the spread of hate speech. In this regard, we welcome the timely mediation role of President João Lourenço of Angola. I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call to all armed groups to disarm and join the political process of the Nairobi Conclave. I also encourage all countries of the region to take steps conducive to peace, and to maintain dialogue with a view to avoiding any further escalation of tensions.
Central Africa remains one of the regions in the world most severely affected by climate change, and this continues to compound peace and security challenges in the sub-region. This is manifested by the intensifying clashes between farmers and herders in Chad, and farming, fishing and herding communities in Cameroon. UNOCA, in close collaboration with the Climate Security Mechanism, is issuing a report on the negative impact of climate change on peace and security in Central Africa. The report is informed by several months of research and field visits, as well as consultations with UN and non-UN partners, in collaboration with ECCAS. It provides recommendations to regional stakeholders on how to better prevent, mitigate and manage security risks linked to climate change, under the leadership of ECCAS.
In the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups, including the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), continue to prey on civilian populations. Intensified air and ground operations by Nigerian and regional military forces have reportedly killed hundreds of terrorist fighters. At the same time, thousands of former associates of Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups have been surrendering to authorities in Nigeria and Cameroon, where they are undergoing a screening process. UNOCA continues to work with the Governments of the region, UNOWAS and other UN entities to support the implementation of the Lake Chad Basin Regional Strategy. UNOCA and UNOWAS also continue their high-level advocacy with member States of the Lake Chad Basin to increase coherence in their responses to violent extremism and provide technical support for DDR. The two offices jointly advocate for increased synergies between the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin Regional Strategy.
In the Gulf of Guinea, piracy incidents have decreased as a result of the commendable efforts of authorities in the region. At the same time, maritime security remains a key challenge and it will be crucial that initiatives to address this are further intensified going forward. I therefore welcome the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2634 (2022) of 31 May. As requested by the resolution, UNOCA and UNOWAS will continue to report on and support States and subregional organizations in their efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
These security challenges were among those discussed at the ministerial level during the 53rd meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (UNSAC), which took place last week. The Ministers and Heads of Delegation exchanged views on the situation in Chad and adopted the Yaoundé Declaration renewing their support for the transition process in that country. They also discussed the situation in the Central African Republic and adopted a second Declaration reaffirming their support for the Government’s peace, national reconciliation, and reconstruction efforts. Furthermore, UNSAC member States adopted a third Declaration marking the thirtieth anniversary of UNSAC and reaffirming the importance of the Committee in promoting peace and security in Central Africa. I would like to thank the Government of Cameroon for hosting the meeting and commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of this important Committee that has over the years been a forum for cooperation between Member States in the region. In this Committee, the countries of the region agreed on important mechanisms such as the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX), the Kinshasa Convention on small arms and light weapons, and the regional strategy on counter-terrorism and the non-proliferation of small arms and light weapons. UNOCA will continue to work with UNSAC member States to ensure complementarity between the work of the Committee and that of the ECCAS Commission.
Madam President,
The women, peace and security agenda remains a key priority for the sub-region and for UNOCA. UNOCA continues to support the preparation or implementation of national action plans on Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) across the region. In Angola, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe, the UN system provides support for capacity building, consultations and public initiatives by civil society, focused on women’s participation in mediation, peacebuilding, political dialogue and elections. In the case of Chad, the UN provides support to the transition process. Collaboration between UNOCA and UN Women has also led to a dialogue with the Peacebuilding Fund on opportunities to fund a multi-year regional programme that would help operationalize and strengthen the implementation of the agenda.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
UNOCA has continued to demonstrate the utility of a regional office as a key mechanism for preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. We look forward to continued support by the Office to the sub-region in addressing its peace and security challenges under a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Je vous remercie pour votre attention.