I thank Mr. Abou Moussa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), for coming to New York and for his briefing today. I also thank the Secretary-General for his report (S/2012/923) on the activities of UNOCA and on the progress made in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Many political and security challenges persist in Central Africa that require the joint cooperation of all actors. We encourage UNOCA’s efforts to strengthen its links with the Economic Community of Central African States and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
On the security front, the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a source of concern to the Council. We welcome the summit of Heads of States on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea planned for April 2013, with UNOCA’s support. We also welcome UNOCA’s active promotion of the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and All Parts and Components That Can Be Used for Their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly, and its promotion of the road map for efforts to combat terrorism and for the non-proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Central Africa.
On the political front, we reiterate the need for free, transparent elections in order to ensure lasting peace in Central Africa, and encourage UNOCA to continue supporting national efforts in that area.
Among the peace and security challenges in Central Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army remains a major concern. The rebellion of the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and tensions between the Sudan and South Sudan, as well as last week’s escalation of attacks by rebel groups in eastern Central African Republic, are of serious concern. However, they must not cause us to forget the ongoing threat of the LRA in the subregion. In the past year, at least 180 attacks were carried out against civilians by that armed group, causing 39 deaths. UNOCA has played a key role in formulating the United Nations regional strategy on the fight against the LRA. The strategy defines effective measures, based on five key pillars, aimed at strengthened coordination of the actions of all partners involved in the fight against the LRA.
Six months after the adoption of the strategy, implementation of all of those pillars should be prioritized. In order to reinvigorate the momentum, we need a plan of action on implementing the strategy that sets timetables and specific goals for each United Nations entity involved. UNOCA could also promote a high-level meeting of the States involved in the fight against the LRA, aimed at increased cooperation on the next steps.
Today, it is critical for the African Union (AU) to launch coercive actions against the LRA. To that end, the AU’s Regional Task Force against the LRA must take shape. In that respect, we commend the commitments of Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, which have already made contingents available to the Force. We encourage other States of the region to do the same. We call for the finalization of a concept of operations to define the chain of command and the modalities of the Force, which must be able to intervene in all areas affected by the LRA.
Civilian protection measures must be strengthened. That will entail increased sharing of information and intelligence among United Nations offices and operations in the region, as well as between the United Nations and the Ay Regional Task Force. Radio and cellular early warning communications systems should also be developed in order to quickly locate groups associated with the LRA and to warn and protect civilians.
Defections by LRA members should be encouraged. Existing disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation or resettlement (DDRRR) programmes must be extended to all affected areas, with special emphasis on reintegration by establishing appropriate accommodation structures. It is important that the offices and missions of the United Nations develop a common DDRRR approach, and establish standard procedures for accepting deserters, in particular children who had been recruited.
At the same time, efforts under way to arrest and prosecute the primary leaders of the LRA, including Joseph Kony, should continue. We encourage the States involved to strengthen their cooperation with the International Criminal Court towards that goal. France supports all of those efforts through its contributions to the European Union African Peace Facility. France also provides bilateral support to States affected by the LRA, inter alia through our ongoing and substantial cooperation with the Central African Republic in the military sector. To the four countries concerned, we also provide humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the attacks, particularly through food assistance, and carry out socioeconomic reintegration programmes for child soldiers.
The States affected by the LRA have a major role to play. We encourage them to continue their efforts to put an end to the threat of the LRA and thereby relieve the affected populations. We stand beside them.