Central Africa: The UN faces emerging and persistent challenges to peace and security

19 Feb 2024

Central Africa: The UN faces emerging and persistent challenges to peace and security

A virtual meeting of representatives of UN entities covering Central Africa took place on 15 February 2024. Initiated by UNOCA, and moderated by its Chief of Staff, El Hadji Diene, this meeting mobilized Special Representatives and Envoys of the United Nations Secretary-General, Regional Directors and Resident Coordinators of the United Nations system as well as colleagues from the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA). It allowed participants to share information and analyses on emerging and persistent challenges to peace and security in the sub-region. As usual, senior UN officials also took this opportunity to reflect on ways and means to strengthen coordination and common approaches to the threats facing countries under their mandate. This is the case with hate speech, disinformation, matters of political and democratic governance, climate change, and activities of armed and terrorist groups, among others.

Worrying humanitarian and security crises

In addition to the difficulties reported by speakers from Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe, there are also transnational challenges such as organized crime and the illicit exploitation of resources.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa, Abdou Abarry, who participated in this session from Kigali, Rwanda, noted that across the region conflicts and humanitarian and security crises cause the displacement of populations, disrupt livelihoods, and hamper development efforts. He particularly drew attention to the disquieting situation in Chad, a country that offers solidarity to more than a million refugees while it is also facing the highest level of severe food insecurity ever recorded. The Head of UNOCA explained that 2.9 million people could be at risk for the next lean season of 2024. In addition, an estimated 1.7 million children aged 6 to 59 months and 262,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women suffer from acute malnutrition.

Mr. Abarry also insisted on the crisis in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is reviving tensions between different States in the region, raising the specter of interstate conflicts. He recounted on United Nations’ efforts to end it. His joint mission (12-15 February) to Burundi and Rwanda with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, Huang Xia, is a most recent example. Through their good offices, they have shown their commitment to work towards a rapprochement between the countries concerned. They reaffirmed their support for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement for the DRC and the region, signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In his speech, Mr. Xia recalled the need to revitalize this initiative put in place to resolve the root causes of violence and recurring wars in the East of the DRC. MONUSCO presented an overview of the situation on the ground, where the M23 continues its offensive despite incessant calls for “de-escalation”. It should be recalled that during a recent mission to this part of the country, the Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, expressed his solidarity with the affected populations and reiterated MONUSCO's commitment to implementing its mandate to protect civilians.

A transformative approach to conflict resolution

The Head of UNOCA underscored that the efforts of countries in the region to get involved and help resolve political conflicts were commendable. He called for “the adoption of a transformative approach” guided by the principles set out in the Secretary-General’s “New Agenda for Peace.” This encourages, among other things, the strengthening of partnerships because, as Mr. Abarry noted, concerted action between ECCAS member States, regional organizations and international partners is vital. He reiterated UNOCA’s commitment to continue working closely with these actors “to address their challenges and achieve their common goals.”

The virtual meeting of 15 February was preceded by that of Political/Peace and Development Advisers, on 14 February. They discussed geopolitical dynamics and global economic challenges as well as their impact on the socio-economic situation in Central Africa. These two meetings were initially planned to be held in Kigali, Rwanda. The format was revised due to the international economic situation and the financial problems that the United Nations is facing. “I hope that the situation will improve and that we will be able to hold our meeting in-person later this year, when, as we hope, the financial situation of the organization will be better,” indicated the Head of the UNOCA.

The 11th annual meeting of Special Representatives and Envoys of the United Nations Secretary-General, Regional Directors and Resident Coordinators of the United Nations system operating in Central Africa took place from 16 to 17 March 2023, in Libreville.