Tuesday, June 8, 2021 9:09 am
By Cecilia Ologunagba
Francois Fall, Head of UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), says attacks by armed groups, including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) are threatening Central Africa’s fragile stability.
Fall, also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, said this on Monday while briefing the Security Council, spotlighting crucial democratic gains that should be protected.
He said recent incidents, including the death of President Idriss Déby Itno of Chad at the hands of rebel fighters, and that country’s subsequent political transition illustrated serious obstacles to lasting peace in the sub-region.
Noting that Chad sat at the nexus of the region’s toughest security challenges, Fall said dynamics in neighbouring Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic could negatively impact the country as it pressed forward with unexpected political changes.
“Those risks are further exacerbated by the activities of terrorist groups in the Lake Chad basin.
“Supporting the country’s rapid transition to democratic and constitutional rule must be a priority for regional actors and the international community,’’ he said
Fall welcomed the convening of two extraordinary summits of Heads of State and Government, including one focused on the situation in Chad on June 4, as evidence that leaders were determined to bring a regional response to the sub-region’s ongoing crises.
Spotlighting the recent appointment by the African Union, of a High Representative for the transition in Chad and a new Special Representative in the country, he said the UN would prioritise its support to those critical regional efforts.
Meanwhile, non-state armed groups including Boko Haram, ISWAP, and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to pose region-wide threats to peace and stability.
Describing “horrendous” impacts on civilians, Fall said violence in northwest and southwest Cameroon had worsened, leading to widespread human rights violations and more suffering.
According to the official, the situation is further compounded by the aggravated impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
He called on all parties to demonstrate commitment to dialogue through concrete action, including the cessation of hostilities.
In addition, he said coordination between countries of the sub-region should be strengthened to better address the deteriorating security situation and escalating humanitarian needs.
According to the envoy, maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea remains a serious threat, with more incidents recorded in Central Africa’s maritime region in the first quarter of 2021 in the broader West African region.
He emphasised that Central Africa’s mounting security concerns should not be allowed to reverse electoral progress made by countries of the sub-region in recent years.
He noted that since his last briefing to the council in December 2020, elections had taken place in four countries, namely: the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.
It was gainst this backdrop that the Government of Burundi convened a meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa on May 28, where leaders recommended the development of a sub-regional protocol on electoral governance and democratic elections.
“As the sub-region prepares for upcoming election… I would like to encourage national authorities and all political stakeholders to promote continued dialogue and consensus,” Fall said.
He cited upcoming elections in Sao Tome and Principe on July 18 as an opportunity and pledged to use the UN’s good offices to work toward that end.