Briefing on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
- Central Africa
- Central African Republic
- Human Rights
- Lord's Resistance Army
- Peace and Security
- Small arms
- South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
I thank Special Representative Abou Moussa for his briefing, and his dedication to pursing UNOCA's important mandate over the past few years.
As Mr. Moussa has said, Central Africa faces critical challenges to its peace and security and requires ongoing support from the UN. Today's meeting provides an important opportunity for the Council to look holistically at these issues and the role that UNOCA – and the broader UN presence in the sub-region – can play in addressing them.
Most prominent among these challenges is the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), one of the most dire human rights and humanitarian crises confronting this Council and the world. Communities in the CAR that have previously co-existed in peace have been decimated by cycles of violence and revenge. The country is being torn apart, with severe consequences for the region. We pay tribute to the African and French forces that deployed quickly to the CAR and took military action that has – literally – saved many lives, and the adoption of a resolution authorising a UN multidimensional stabilisation mission in the CAR should mark a turning point in the international response to this crisis.
We have also seen the growing threat of terrorism in Central Africa, including the expansion of Boko Haram into the region. We have all condemned Boko Haram's recent attacks against civilians and the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria – an act that has shocked the global conscience. Like others, Australia has offered its support to the Government of Nigeria.
The abhorrent targeting of school children brings to mind the tactics of another group that has wreaked havoc on the region – the Lord's Resistance Army. That group's killing, raping, pillaging, and maiming has terrorised civilians for more than twenty years.
The International Criminal Court arrest warrants for the LRA's leaders – the first issued by the Court – have now been outstanding for close to nine years. It is essential that Joseph Kony and the other surviving senior LRA leaders are held to account for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
We have made significant progress towards the goal of putting an end, once and for all, to the LRA. The recent trends are promising: overall LRA attacks and resulting deaths are down, despite a seasonal spike; the number of displaced in LRA-affected areas has been halved; and defections are on the rise.
Australia commends the African Union Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) for its significant impact in the fight against the LRA, and the critical support being provided by the US and EU. We welcome the recent capture of LRA commander Charles Okello, in an operation which also rescued three women and seven children.
My first central message is this: we must maintain the momentum and support for current efforts to put an end to the LRA.
We are concerned, though, that the crises in the CAR and in South Sudan risk undermining the progress achieved to date – diverting attention, resources, and regional security forces away from anti-LRA efforts.
We are also concerned by reports that senior LRA leaders may be based in north-eastern CAR, and that some ex-Seleka combatants are suspected to be colluding with the LRA. The Secretary-General's report also cites credible sources suggesting that LRA leader Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders have recently returned to seek safe-haven in the Kafia Kingi enclave between Sudan, South Sudan, and the CAR.
We know that the LRA will exploit any security vacuum and seize the opportunity to regroup. This is its modus operandi. Since the collapse of state authority in the CAR, LRA attacks in the country's east have risen sharply, and the group has targeted prefectures outside of the AU-RTF's principal area of operations.
This brings me to my second point: it is imperative that UN and AU missions in the region – MONUSCO, UNMISS, MISCA/MINUSCA, and UNAMID – continue to deepen their information-sharing, coordination, and cooperation in efforts to combat the LRA.
The various sanctions committees and groups of experts active in the region are an important component of this effort, and can provide further information and options to address the LRA's financing, weapons, and operations.
By leveraging the resources deployed in the region, and increasing coordination between them, we can better protect civilians in LRA-affected areas and keep ahead of the LRA. Otherwise, gains made in increasing stability in one area risk being offset by the re-emergence of the LRA elsewhere. Indeed, this has been the case following security gains made around Garamba National Park in the DRC, which has been followed by a rise in attacks further west.
Hence, Mr. President, the logical conclusion that UNOCA has an important overarching role, in particular to enhance the implementation of the UN Regional Strategy.
Finally, Mr. President, we must support UNOCA and regional-led efforts to address other, often-related challenges to Central Africa's peace and security, including the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the poaching and trafficking of wildlife.
The development of a roadmap for counterterrorism and non-proliferation of small and light weapons in Central Africa, and pledge by regional leaders to honour the 10 year moratorium on the sale of ivory stockpiles to protect elephants, are all important. These types of initiatives will help restrict and reduce the illicit means by which the LRA and other groups are able to arm themselves, and are fundamental to longer-term peace and stability in the region.
Let me conclude by thanking Special Representative Moussa again for his commitment and leadership since UNOCA's inception in 2011. We look forward to working with his successor, Mr Abdoulaye Bathily.