The Security Council today encouraged the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to form partnerships with other organizations to help countries in the region to address peace and security challenges, particularly the flow of illicit small arms, border security and the threat posed by the marauding Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The Council reiterated its concern over persistent LRA attacks, noting that UNOCA, in coordination with the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU), should engage with the AU to counter the LRA threat.
UNOCA should “continue to work with the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, in particular with regard to the reinforcement of confidence-building measures between the countries of the sub-region, as an element of conflict prevention,” the Council said in a press statement read by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.
In the statement, issued after a briefing from Abou Moussa, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa and head of UNOCA, the UN body requested the regional office to provide any relevant assistance to the States in the region on security sector reform, human rights, the fight against trans-border threats, and enhancing women’s contribution to conflict prevention and resolution.
The Council urged governments in the region and regional organizations, particularly the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), to cooperate with UNOCA.
In a video briefing from Libreville, Gabon, Mr. Moussa told the Council that the conflict in Libya has had adverse consequences in Central Africa, noting for example that nearly 80,000 of the estimated half a million Chadians who were living in Libya had returned to their country by the end of last month.
“Their return presents several challenges for Chad, particularly the loss of remittances,” Mr. Moussa told the Council. Returnees might also engage in the pervasive trade in the illicit small arms, he said.
“It is not inconceivable that some returnees, particularly those who may have participated in military or security operations in Libya, could be recruited as mercenaries or even fighters for armed groups in the central Africa region,” said Mr. Moussa.
However, he said he was encouraged by the prevailing readiness of countries in the sub-region to work together to foster cooperation and address common threats to peace and security. He cited the signing on 23 May of a joint mechanism by Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) at their summit in Khartoum to promote border security and strengthen economic ties as a testimony to the determination of leaders to eliminate threats to peace and security in the region.
On the other hand, Mr. Moussa voiced concern that despite the wealth in natural resources, countries in the Gulf of Guinea continue to face what he termed the “natural resources curse” or “paradox of plenty.”
“The countries of the area continue to face low growth and persisting poverty as a result of the multi-faceted domestic, regional and international threats and vulnerabilities, such as the increasing threat of piracy,” he said. Poaching of water resources, criminal activities and the trafficking of narcotics remained a major concern in the Gulf of Guinea, he added.
He said that UNOCA will work to translate its mandate into cohesive sub-regional initiatives to facilitate coordination and information-sharing between UN entities and other partners to support peacebuilding and preventive diplomacy in the region.
UNOCA was created in March to support efforts of Central African nations to consolidate peace and prevent conflict, while tackling cross-border challenges such as arms trafficking and organized crime in the region.