The situation in Central Africa and the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2018/1065)
The present report is submitted pursuant to the statement of the President of the Security Council dated 10 August 2018 (S/PRST/2018/17), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to keep it informed about the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). It provides an assessment of the major political and security trends in Central Africa since the report of the Secretary-General dated 1 June 2018 (S/2018/521), and an update on progress in the implementation of the mandate of UNOCA. The report also provides an update on the situation in the Lake Chad basin region, pursuant to Council resolution 2349 (2017).
II. Major developments in the Central Africa subregion
A. Political, peace and security developments and trends
The political situation in Central Africa was dominated by elections held in a number of countries in the subregion, including Cameroon, Gabon, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe, and the ongoing preparations for upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo later in 2018. The security situation remained fragile in some parts of the subregion and social tensions continued to rise in some countries.
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a joint summit of Heads of State and Government on peace, security, stability and the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in Lomé on 30 July. The Heads of State and Government adopted a joint communiqué and the Lomé Declaration on Peace, Security, Stability and the Fight against Terrorism and Violent Extremism, in which they committed to strengthening cooperation on peace and security issues.
Political development and trends
On 2 July in Cameroon, at the request of its President, Paul Biya, the National Assembly extended the mandate of all Members of Parliament for one year, beginning 29 October 2018, thereby postponing scheduled legislative elections. Local elections were also postponed to 2019 by a presidential decree, citing challenges in organizing the presidential, legislative and local elections simultaneously. The presidential election took place on 7 October. The electoral management body noted that the turnout was particularly low in the North-West and South-West regions. According to the final results announced by the Constitutional Council on 22 October, the President was re-elected with 71.28 per cent of the vote. The voter turnout rate was 53.8 per cent.
The security situation in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon continued to deteriorate. Sporadic fighting between security forces and armed groups was reported throughout the reporting period. On 12 July, the convoy of the Minister for Defence was attacked on two separate occasions near Kumba in the South-West region. On the night of 28 to 29 July, an armed group attacked a prison in Ndop in the North-West region, resulting in the escape of 163 inmates. On 26 September, armed individuals also attacked a prison in Wum in the North-West region, leading to the escape of 80 inmates. On 5 November, nearly 80 students and staff from a secondary school in Bamenda, in the North-West region, were kidnapped. All of the students were released the following day. During the reporting period, there were reports of sexual violence perpetrated by both security forces and armed groups. In response, “gender desks” were established at police stations in the South-West region in an effort to establish a safe and confidential reporting process on sexual and gender-based violence and related crimes. On 11 October, religious leaders of the Catholic, Protestant and Muslim communities in the English-speaking regions held a meeting in preparation for an “Anglophone General Conference” scheduled to be held in Buea, in the South-West region, on 21 and 22 November, but which was later postponed. At the same meeting, they reiterated their appeal for the cessation of military and insurgent operations in the English-speaking regions.
At a press conference on 11 August, the President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, reported that his country needed 70 billion CFA francs (approximately $122 million) in order to organize the legislative elections scheduled for November. He also indicated that consultations were ongoing with the Government’s technical and financial partners to seek the necessary assistance. The legislative elections were postponed, reportedly due to financial constraints.
On 15 June and 19 October, transhumance-related clashes were reported in the Ouaddaï region of Chad, leading to seven and five deaths, respectively. On 11 August, some 100 armed vehicles attacked two Chadian military garrisons at Kouri Bougoudi — a gold-mining area where many immigrants and Chadians are engaged in mining activities — in the Tibesti desert, near the border with Libya, resulting in the death of at least three Chadian soldiers and the theft of approximately 20 military vehicles. The Chadian armed group, Conseil de commandement militaire pour le salut de la République, claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, the Government requested all mine workers to leave the area prior to the initiation of air and ground operations by the armed forces. The Chadian Air Force bombarded two mining operations in the area of Kouri Bougoudi on 13 September, killing two miners and seriously injuring two others. More than 8,000 people of multiple nationalities left the area and requested assistance. On 24 October, another attack against the Chadian defence and security forces was reported in Miski department, near the border with Libya. The spokesperson of the Chadian armed forces announced that the attackers had been neutralized and the situation was under control.
The Congo made progress in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 December 2017. In June, 81 supporters of former rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, were released after having been detained since 2016. The judicial authorities lifted the arrest warrant against Pastor Ntumi and two of his allies on 28 July. On 21 August, Pastor Ntumi joined the weapons collection operation in the Pool region, which had begun on 7 August. On 31 August, the Government adopted a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. With a total budget of $16.6 million, the programme aims to support 7,500 former rebel combatants as well as displaced populations of the Pool region. On 8 October, the Government reported that 5,665 ex-combatants had been identified and 8,007 weapons had been collected and destroyed.
In Equatorial Guinea, the sixth national political dialogue took place from 16 to 23 July with the participation of representatives of the Government and 17 recognized political parties and representatives of civil society and religious groups, as well as the diaspora. International, regional and subregional organizations and diplomatic missions were invited to the dialogue as observers. The opposition group Ciudadanos por la Innovación de Guinea Ecuatorial party was barred from participating in the dialogue, although the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, had announced a total amnesty on 4 July. Several political leaders in exile also boycotted the dialogue, and few women from the country were in attendance. The final communiqué outlined agreements between the Government, representatives of political parties and the diaspora. However, two opposition parties, Convergencia para la Democracia Social and Unión de Centro Derecha, did not sign the communiqué in protest against the non-application of the announced total amnesty to political actors and the rejection of calls for a transitional government, among other things.
In Gabon, the first round of legislative elections and the single round of local elections were held on 6 October. The second round of legislative elections took place on 27 October. The ruling Parti démocratique gabonais won 98 of 143 seats, thereby securing a majority in the National Assembly. The opposition party, Les démocrates, became the second political force with 11 seats. Nineteen women were elected, compared with 15 in the previous legislature.
Gabon continued to experience increasing socioeconomic tensions. On 21 and 28 June, the Council of Ministers adopted several austerity measures, including a reduction of salaries in the public sector by 5 to 15 per cent. That was criticized by trade unions and the opposition. On 2 August, the major trade union confederation, Dynamique unitaire, filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to invalidate the austerity measures and decided to organize demonstrations in Libreville on 13 and 28 August. Despite both demonstrations being banned by the Government, members of the confederation attempted to demonstrate on 28 August, resulting in the arrest of 29 people.
In Rwanda, legislative elections took place on 2 and 3 September. The Rwandese Patriotic Front-Inkotanyi coalition party secured 40 of the 80 seats in Parliament, followed by the Social Democratic Party with 5 seats and the Liberal Party with 4 seats. For the first time, representatives of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and the Social Party Imberakuri, secured two seats each. The parliamentarians were sworn in on 19 September. Overall, women obtained 61 per cent of the seats. Youth, who were accorded a minimum of two seats by a quota system, gained a total of seven seats. Persons living with disabilities were also given one seat by quota. Of the 80 members of the National Assembly, 53 are directly elected and 27 are indirectly elected by representatives of special interest groups.
In Sao Tome and Principe, legislative, local and regional elections took place on 7 October. On 19 October, the Constitutional Court announced the final results of the legislative elections. The ruling party, Acção Democrática Independente, won 25 of 55 seats, while the main opposition party, the Movimento de Libertação de São Tome e Príncipe — Partido Social Democrata, gained 23 seats. The opposition coalition, comprising the Partido da Convergência Democrática, the Movimento Democrático Força da Mudança and the União para a Democracia e Desenvolvimento, secured five seats, and the Movimento de Cidadãos Independentes de São Tomé e Príncipe won two seats. The overall turnout rate was 80.8 per cent. The Minister for Defence and Internal Affairs issued a communiqué on 21 June informing the public that a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, Patrice Trovoada, had been uncovered and foiled. Subsequently, two suspects, including a member of the Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe — Partido Social Democrata, were arrested but released shortly thereafter due to lack of evidence. On 4 August, the judicial police arrested five people suspected of an alleged attempt to subvert the Constitution.
In the Central African Republic, the peace process under the auspices of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation was ongoing, including the preparations for the direct dialogue between the authorities and the main recognized armed groups.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, progress was made in the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement as well as in the preparations for the general elections scheduled for 23 December 2018. On 19 September, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced the final list of candidates for the presidential, legislative and provincial elections, in accordance with the electoral calendar. The security situation remained fragile in eastern parts of the country, notably in the Beni, Lubero and Masisi territories of North Kivu, in Ituri province, and on the high plateaux of Uvira and the Shabunda territory in South Kivu, where armed groups continued to carry out destabilizing activities. The situation also deteriorated in parts of Haut-Uélé province as a result of the cross-border movements of South Sudanese armed elements; however, in Ituri province, intercommunal violence between the Hema and the Walendu continued to recede.
In Burundi, in accordance with the new Constitution revised in May, the National Assembly and the Senate approved new members of the Independent National Electoral Commission on 29 August. The opposition boycotted the parliamentary session, denouncing the new configuration of the Commission as overwhelmingly pro-ruling party and deploring the lack of consensus in the selection and confirmation of its members.