Despite some progress in the electoral arena, countries in Central Africa continue to grapple with the serious challenges of terrorism, dire food insecurity, climate change and the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the subregion told the Security Council today.
François Louncény Fall, also Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), briefed the Security Council on the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the region and the activities of UNOCA (document S/2021/975). Central Africa continues to deal with the COVID‑19 pandemic, with 438,000 cases reported and 7,047 deaths since the pandemic began — a 100 per cent increase compared to June. However, since his last briefing, São Tomé and Príncipe had a peaceful and orderly presidential election. With crucial elections pending in 2022 and 2023 — including in Angola, Chad, the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe — renewed commitment to peaceful and democratic electoral processes remains paramount.
Terrorist activity in the Lake Chad Basin, including by Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, still presents a serious challenge, he said, reporting that the armed groups have reconfigured, generating additional threats to the populations. However, they have also been weakened by military operations and infighting, he pointed out, stressing that the time is right to increase international support to defeat them, including much needed technical and material assistance to the Multinational Joint Task Force. Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Guinea, organized maritime crime has remained a threat to State and human security, despite a decrease in piracy incidents.
Describing Chad’s efforts to achieve a peaceful and democratic transition within 18 months, he noted the recent granting of amnesty by transitional authorities to members of armed groups to encourage dialogue and reconciliation. Turning to the Central African Republic, he reported on consultations with national authorities and international partners, in coordination with Special Representative Mankeur Ndiaye of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which resulted in continued efforts towards lasting peace. However, noting the continuing violence in Cameroon, with non-State armed groups forming alliances with foreign groups and deploying more complex weapons and tactics, he welcomed new local initiatives promoting a bottom-up approach to resolve the crisis through dialogue.
In the ensuing debate, a number of speakers, while citing the comprehensive efforts by UNOCA to advance dialogue and, ultimately, solutions, echoed concerns over the ongoing terrorist activity and the dire humanitarian situation plaguing the region.
The representative of Niger, Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity and also on behalf of Kenya, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called for the implementation of decisions taken at an Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) conference — efforts that contributed to the unilateral ceasefire declared by Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Expressing concern about terrorist activities in the Lake Chad Basin, he stressed that the humanitarian situation in the region has remained worrisome due to persistent conflict and natural disasters, with violations of human rights by armed groups, including violence against women. He urged international partners to support UNOCA and regional countries.
The United Kingdom’s delegate voiced concern about the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic, which was taking a distressing toll on the civilian population and compounding an already acute humanitarian situation. Commending the call of President Touadéra for a unilateral ceasefire and underlining the importance of an inclusive peacebuilding process, he expressed regret over further reports of the Russian private military company the Wagner Group and its continuing human rights abuses in that country.
France’s representative welcomed the regional mediation initiatives by Angola and Rwanda and encouraged steps taken in Chad since the adoption of a transition roadmap at the end of July. She also emphasized the need for elections scheduled in that country for September 2022 to be free, transparent and inclusive. However, while hailing the ceasefire in the Central African Republic, she stressed that the Wagner Group must put an end to its abuses, predation and violence at the expense of Central Africans.
The Russian Federation’s delegate emphasized that armed criminal and terror groups are the main threat in the region, with Islamic State West Africa Province and Boko Haram using rear bases to strike deep into Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon and exploiting the low military capabilities of those countries. However, responding to accusations levelled at her country, she remarked that those who spoke have a very sad history of destabilizing countries, and not only in Africa. They are far from impeccable on human rights, she said, adding that she could not consider their statements on the Central African Republic as anything but a hypocritical coordinated campaign.
Norway’s representative, looking to future solutions, highlighted a draft resolution that his country — in collaboration with incoming members Ghana, Gabon and other regional countries — will introduce regarding piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, which cost the surrounding regions almost $2 billion dollars. Climate change as well has led to more than 96,000 internally displaced persons in Burundi, and intercommunal clashes between herding and farming communities in Chad and Cameroon. There must be preventive diplomacy, he stressed, adding that the Security Council’s role “cannot be reduced to that of a firefighter rushing to scenes after the fact”.
Also speaking were the representatives of Estonia, Viet Nam, India, Mexico, China, Ireland and the United States.
The meeting began at 3:16 p.m. and ended at 4:45 p.m.