By J Nastranis
In view of “the volatile and fast‑evolving nature of the political, security and social situation” in Central Africa, the United Nations Secretary-General has asked the Security Council to extend by three years from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2021 the mandate of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).
Created on January 1, 2011, and operating under the purview of the Department of Political Affairs, UNOCA covers the 11 member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS): Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe.
The 15-member Security Council has asked the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review regarding the scope of UNOCA’s mandate and activities and propose by August 1, 2019 ways to improve coordination between the various UN agencies operating in the region.
These include the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Council intends to consider these recommendations, including any proposed changes to the mandate, by August 31, 2019.
In a Presidential Statement released on August 10, the Council acknowledges UNOCA’s role, in cooperation with other partners, in promoting inclusive dialogue in the region; its work with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to develop a strategy addressing the root causes of the security and humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin; and its support for regional anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Guinea.
But the Council expresses “grave concern” over the security situation and human rights abuses. Terrorist attacks by Boko Haram, ISIL (also known as Da’esh), the Lord’s Resistance Army and other armed groups, are ongoing. There is also continued maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, and a pervasive threat of transnational organised crime, including the threat of mercenary activities, says the Presidential statement.
The statement further points to ongoing violence by armed groups against civilians and UN peacekeepers, human rights violations against children, and sexual violence. Not only incitement to ethnic and other religious hatred is on the rise, but also manipulated hostility towards the UN Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and other international organisations, notes the Presidential statement.
The Security Council asks UNOCA to consolidate peace and resolve tensions following the various elections that took place between 2015 and 2018, and prevent election-related violence, improve maritime security in Gulf of Guinea, and combat Boko Haram.
The Council further tasks UNOCA to take gender considerations into account (ensuring that women play a key role in conflict prevention, mediation and resolution), counter the illicit trade in weapons, and develop long-term strategies to build resilience in the face of climate change and natural disasters, which are having an adverse effect on regional stability.