Noting that recent elections held in Angola, Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea showed significant progress towards democracy and rule of law, as well as a greater participation of women, briefers told the Security Council today that strengthened international and regional cooperation was needed to build and sustain peace and democratic strides in Central Africa in the face of persistent security challenges.
Abdou Abarry, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), briefed the Council for the first time since his appointment on 28 July and presented the related report of the Secretary-General (document S/2022/896). The region had great challenges, but also great opportunities, particularly in the area of economic and social development and the building of democracy and the rule of law, he said, noting the peaceful holding of elections in São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. Citing other positive developments, he highlighted the increased participation and representation of women in institutions and political processes and significant progress, as well, in maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
However, in the Lake Chad Basin, extremist groups, although weakened, have continued to cause harm, he said, urging that military pressure must be maintained against those groups in a coordinated manner as part of the Multinational Joint Force. Meanwhile, in Cameroon, the situation in the north-west and south-west regions continues to threaten that country’s stability, with attacks on civilian targets, including schools. Still, the year 2023 will see significant political processes in certain Central African countries. Noting that the last elections in some of those countries were marked by violence, he called for international assistance and national and regional efforts to ensure peaceful electoral processes, and the Council’s increased political support towards that end.
Gilberto da Piedade Verissimo, President of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), said the ECCAS Commission deployed international electoral observation missions to Congo, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea to monitor the electoral processes. In addition, ECCAS is working to implement an international fact-finding mission in Chad. An international fact-finding mission is also being operationalized in São Tomé and Príncipe to address the political and security crisis triggered by the recent presidential and legislative elections in 2021 and 2022.
Noting the worrisome situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the terrorist movements and armed groups in South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri, he said the Commission is exploring ways to send a regional force in the eastern part of the country as an observer. Calling on the cooperation of United Nations agencies, he said the challenging situations in Central Africa give rise to reimagined and renewed cooperation to promote peace and lasting security in the region.
In the ensuing debate, Council members welcomed the electoral processes in the region and the increased political participation and representation of women, noting them as prerequisites for democracy. They voiced alarm, however, about terrorism, ongoing violence and the humanitarian situation in the region and joined the briefers in calling for strengthened regional and international cooperation.
The representative of the United Kingdom, while highlighting the role of UNOCA in supporting inclusive and peaceful political processes, stressed it is up to Member States to deliver democratic elections and inclusive transitional processes. Regarding the eruption of violence in October in Chad, she welcomed the launch of an inquiry and urged UNOCA, ECCAS member States and the Chadian Government to ensure transparent and independent investigation. Voicing concern about the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic, she said the targeting of civilians, not only by armed groups, but by national forces and the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, continues to play a destabilizing role in the country.
Gabon’s representative, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, expressed concern over persistent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram and dissident groups in the Lake Chad Basin and armed groups’ intensifying attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hoping the ongoing deployment of the East African Community Regional Force will help resolve the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, she called on the international community to support these subregional efforts. She further stressed the importance of boosting cooperation between the States of Central Africa through ECCAS and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as between the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and UNOCA.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, in a similar vein, said the joint meetings between special envoys and concerned stakeholders in the region — such as the one held in Nairobi last October — are all important examples of cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations. Noting that heavy rains, massive floods and desertification continue to impact populations, in addition to increasing tensions and conflicts, she said it is critical to foster the communities’ resilience to climate change, including in the Lake Chad Basin and the Congo Basin.
Mexico’s representative, also underscoring that complex situations require enhanced regional coordination, called for regional organizations to offer greater assistance, particularly regarding the transition in Chad. Delays in that transition will create a dangerous political precedent in the region, he warned, urging the authorities of the transition to respect their obligations. Turning to Cameroon, he underlined a need for a political mobilization towards national reconciliation, noting that a new basis needs to be built for peaceful coexistence of the communities in which the Cameroonian diaspora could play a key role.
China’s representative underscored that the stability of Central Africa is vital for the entire continent, adding that the international community should devote more attention to the region while respecting the sovereignty and ownership of countries in the region. Further, the international community must help regional countries improve their living standards and achieve socioeconomic development, he said, calling for adequate humanitarian financing to help affected countries. China will continue to support Central African countries through means such as debt suspension and development assistance, he said.
Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, Brazil, Albania, Norway, Ireland, United States, France and India.
The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 4:40 p.m.