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The situation in Central Africa and the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/913)

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I. Introduction

  1. 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 me to keep it informed about the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). It provides an assessment of the major politica l and security developments and trends in Central Africa since my report dated 24 May 2019 (S/2019/430) and an update on progress in the implementation of the UNOCA mandate with regard to the conclusions of the strategic review of UNOCA, which were welcomed by the Council in the statement of its President dated 12 September 2019 (S/PRST/2019/10). 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

  1. Preparing for upcoming elections and reconciling past electoral challenges remained salient features of the political landscape in Central Africa. As several countries grappled with the challenges of managing peaceful and credible democratic transitions of power, the mostly young population has grown increasingly vocal about the need for reform. While some countries continued to urge greater economic integration, including the free movement of people and goods in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) zone, others were reluctant to lower barriers that they perceived to be necessary for maintaining national security.

  2. Central Africa achieved a milestone in adopting a much-anticipated plan for the institutional reform of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). By the end of 2019, ECCAS Heads of State and Government are expected to sign the reform package developed and approved by ministers in June and July, in order to transform the ECCAS secretariat into a commission, as well as to fully integrate the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa into the ECCAS institutional architecture. On 26 July, Gabon announced its donation of a new building in Libreville to serve as the new commission’s headquarters.

Political developments and trends

  1. In Angola, the administration of the President, João Lourenço, continued to focus on addressing poverty and corruption while tackling increasing public debt. On 15 June, the ruling party, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, convened its seventh extraordinary congress in Luanda, at which it adopted a strategy for the municipal elections to be held in 2020 and voted to enlarge its central committee to nearly 500 members.

  2. In Cameroon, tensions around the contested presidential election held in October 2018 surged when more than 280 members of the Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun, an opposition party, were arrested during demonstrations in Yaoundé, Douala, Nkongsamba, Bafoussam and Bangangté on 1 and 8 June. A key issue was the holding of parliamentary elections, which had been postponed twice since 2018. On 27 June, the Government of Switzerland made public its efforts to facilitate a resolution to the crisis in the North-West and South-West Regions through a dialogue process. Meanwhile, on 26 August, in Yaoundé, the Government announced its intention to reopen schools in the North-West and South-West Regions. In reaction, the secessionists imposed a new 16-day lockdown in the two regions, resulting in increased displacement.

  3. From 30 September to 4 October in Yaoundé, the Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, presided over a national dialogue focusing primarily on the crisis in the North - West and South-West Regions. The dialogue was attended by participants from various sectors of Cameroonian society. Secessionist leaders and members of the opposition party of the former presidential candidate Maurice Kamto, some of whom were detained at the time, did not participate in the dialogue. Some opposition leaders left the dialogue process and rejected its outcome. Among the conclusions of the national dialogue were the recommendations that a special status be accorded to the North-West and South-West Regions and that regional councils be created. Other outcomes included the authorization of dual citizenship and representation of the diaspora in the National Assembly, the adoption of measures to promote bilingualism and the designation of mediators to engage radicalized members of the diaspora. The Prime Minister vowed to reopen schools and ensure the resumption of socioeconomic activities and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. These recommendations were submitted to the President, Paul Biya, for his consideration. To date, no official decision on the recommendations has been made public.

  4. On 3 October, Mr. Biya ended legal proceedings against 333 persons detained in connection with the crisis in the two regions. On 5 October, a military court ordered the release of Mr. Kamto, along with 102 other members of the Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun, at the request of the President. Since then, authorities have prohibited three public meetings of supporters of Mr. Kamto. On 10 November, Mr. Biya signed a decree calling for legislative and municipal elections to be held on 9 February 2020.

  5. In Chad, the security situation was of increasing concern. In the face of continued lawlessness in parts of the north and escalating intercommunal violence in the east, the Council of Ministers decreed a state of emergency in the northern province of Tibesti and in the eastern provinces of Ouaddaï and Sila on 19 August. On 21 August, the Government announced the closing of the country’s borders with the Central African Republic, Libya and the Sudan, leaving a small numbe r of official crossing points open along each border. On 10 September, the National Assembly extended the state of emergency in the three provinces until January 2020. On 11 November, the government security forces signed an agreement with the Miski self-defence committee in an attempt to end the fighting that had broken out in Tibesti several weeks earlier.

  6. Progress continued to be made towards the holding of legislative and local elections in Chad, which had been postponed repeatedly since 2015. On 3 July, the National Assembly passed a new electoral law in line with the statute on gender parity of 2018. On 12 September, the President, Idriss Déby Itno, appointed a new executive bureau for the national political dialogue framework, which started revising the electoral law to shorten the legal deadlines to hold elections before the end of 2019, as requested by the Government. On 3 October, the National Independent Electoral Commission announced that legislative elections would most likely be held in the first quarter of 2020.

  7. In the Congo, some progress was achieved towards inclusive political dialogue. Since 9 October, the National Dialogue Council has been consulting with national stakeholders, including political parties, religious groups, civil society and professional organizations, in preparation for a dialogue to be convened in 2020. The implementation of the ceasefire concluded in 2017 between the Government and the Ninja militia, led by Frédéric Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, in the Pool Region continued to advance. However, the critical reintegration phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, had not commenced. This was largely because the financial contribution of $4 million by the Government, which was expected to trigger donor support, was not released.

  8. In Gabon, the President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, gradually resumed his duties following his illness in October 2018. On 10 June, he appointed a leaner Government led by a Prime Minister and comprising 28 ministers and deputy ministers. A new ministerial position for the promotion of good governance was established. A reshuffle on 4 October expanded the Cabinet to 31 ministers. On 24 September, the Constitutional Court was sworn in. The terms of the President of the Court and most of its judges were extended to nine years, in line with the provisions of the Constitution of 2018.

  9. In Sao Tome and Principe, inter-party and intra-party political tensions increased, with the former ruling party, Acção Democrática Independente, undergoing a split in leadership, and with a marked rise in tensions within the ruling coalition. Continued fuel shortages and power cuts led to an increase in the number of demonstrations, acts of vandalism, violence and public discord. In an effort to demonstrate a commitment to institutional and political stability, the Government convened a high-level meeting on 17 September at which the President, Evaristo do Espírito Santo Carvalho, the Prime Minister, Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus, and the President of the National Assembly, Delfim Santiago das Neves, committed themselves to preserving the country’s institutional and political stability and agreed to develop a strategy for modernizing the justice sector.

  10. On 16 July, Equatorial Guinea endorsed the abolishment of visa requirements for nationals of CEMAC countries, in accordance with the CEMAC agreement of 2013 on free movement in Central Africa. The Congo and Gabon were the last two countries to ratify the agreement, in October 2017.

  11. On 16 August, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea publicly denied rumours that the country was building a wall along its border with Cameroon, prompting the chief of the Cameroonian army to warn against any unlawful intrusions into the country’s territory. In July, Gabon ratified a special agreement to adjudicate its border dispute with Equatorial Guinea through the International Court of Justice.

  12. On 12 July, Angola convened a quadripartite summit in Luanda with the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. In a joint communiqué, they renewed their commitment to dialogue for economic and political cooperation and the peaceful resolution of disputes. On 21 August, in Luanda, the Presidents of Rwanda and Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding, facilitated by the Presidents of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the goal of normalizing relations. On 16 September, a ministerial-level commission formed to implement the memorandum of understanding held its first meeting in Kigali, resulting in a joint communiqué in which several measures were outlined to move the process forward.