The Central African region still faces many challenges, including an economic crisis aggravated by the drop in oil prices, rising youth unemployment and terrorist activities, as well as the cross-border impact of crises in Central African Republic (CAR) and Burundi, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the sub-region warned this week.
“The crisis in the CAR continued to have regional and multi-dimensional consequences with almost half a million refugees; ongoing gross violations of human rights; growing gang-related criminality and environmental degradation in refugee areas,” Abdoulaye Bathily said, briefing the Security Council about the situation for the first time since November 2014.
In a Presidential Statement adopted during the same meeting, the Council echoed Bathily’s concerns, while welcoming the holding of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation from May 4 to11, which ended “with the signing of a number of key documents, including a Republican pact for peace, national reconciliation and reconstruction, as well as with an agreement on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR)”.
In the Lake Chad Basin, “the dire humanitarian situation, resulting from attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, continued to affect the population, including in Cameroon and Chad”, said Bathily, who also heads the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).
The Security Council Presidential Statement condemned the increase in attacks perpetrated by the terrorist group and expresses concern that its activities continue to have adverse humanitarian impact: along with the displacement of an estimated 74,000 Nigerians into neighbouring Cameroon, there are 96,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Cameroon and in Chad almost 20,000 Nigerian refugees, 8,500 returnees and 14,500 IDPs.
“Recent attacks by the terrorist group highlight the need for the affected States to remain vigilant and engaged”, the Special Representative warned.
Over the past six months, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) also continued to pose a threat to regional security, particularly in CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), noted the UNOCA chief. In spite of ongoing efforts, the number of civilians abductions unfortunately increased he said, adding more than 200,000 people still remain displaced across the region.
The surrender of senior LRA commander Dominic Ongwen in January this year and his subsequent transfer to the International Criminal Court marked a significant step forward with regard to criminal justice Bathily said.
“Ongwen’s removal from the battlefield sends a strong message to remaining LRA fighters and signifies international efforts to combat the group are bearing fruit.”
UNOCA, as well as UN political and peacekeeping missions in the region, were urged by the Council to enhance these efforts in support of the implementation of the United Nations Regional Strategy to Address the Threat and Impact of the Activities of the LRA.
In co-ordination with the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), UNOCA also continued working to consolidate activities in combatting maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, the Special Representative told the Security Council, as well as working on a sub-regional strategy to tackle the growing phenomenon of poaching in central Africa.