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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/2019/430)

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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 the Secretary-General to keep it informed about the activities of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). It provides an assessment of the major political and security developments and trends in Central Africa since the report of the Secretary-General dated 29 November 2018 (S/2018/1065) and covers the period from 30 November 2018 to 15 May 2019. 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

2. The political situation in Central Africa remained volatile and highly charged by recent electoral processes and security and human rights challenges.

3. In N’Djamena, on 24 March, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) held the fourteenth ordinary session of its Conference of Heads of State, at which it adopted a common policy on emigration, immigration and border security, aimed at accelerating the creation of a visa-free zone. CEMAC leaders further expressed their solidarity with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, following his recent convalescence and commended the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, for the signature of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic. The President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, took over the chairmanship of CEMAC for a two-year period.

4. On 13 April, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States decided to temporarily relocate its headquarters from Tripoli to N’Djamena.

Political development and trends

5. In Angola, the President, João Lourenço, ramped up the fight against corruption as part of his Government’s commitment to political and macroeconomic reforms. The Government mounted campaigns aimed at combating illegal immigration and illegal mining, which resulted in mass expulsions of foreign nationals. As preparations advanced for the holding of local elections in 2020, underpinning a broader decentralization process, Angola took steps to broaden democratic space and enhance dialogue with civil society.

6. The political and civic space in Burundi continued to be tense, with reports of persistent harassment of opposition parties. In January, the Government suspended 30 international non-governmental organizations after they failed to comply with a recent law strengthening financial controls and requiring the enforcement of ethnic quotas. In December 2018, the Prosecutor General issued an arrest warrant against the former President, Pierre Buyoya, and 16 other officials on conspiracy charges related to the 1993 assassination of the former President, Melchior Ndadaye. On 17 April, the National Assembly passed the new Electoral Code that will guide the 2020 general elections, in line with the May 2018 Constitution.

7. On 1 February, the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, in his capacity as facilitator, at that time, of the East African Community-led inter-Burundi dialogue, submitted a report to the Heads of State of the Community at their twentieth ordinary summit. He also proposed a political road map for the 2020 elections. The President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, rejected both the report and concerns regarding the political situation. The Community has yet to decide on next steps regarding the inter-Burundi dialogue.

8. In Cameroon, President Biya appointed a new Government on 4 January, which included 11 women. More than half of the country’s 60 ministers were replaced. As legislative and municipal elections remained postponed by presidential decree, supporters of the main opposition parties called for a revision of the electoral law. Meanwhile, on 5 April, Parliament enacted a law on decentralization to determine the number of regional councillors. On 26 January, protests erupted in major cities throughout the country, eliciting a violent response by internal security forces and triggering mass arrests. Those arrested included several Members of Parliament from the Social Democratic Front and the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, Maurice Kamto, together with 200 of Mr. Kamto’s supporters, who are currently standing trial before a military tribunal on charges that include rebellion, insurrection and public disturbance. Some of those charges carried the death penalty. In an interview broadcast on 19 March, the spokesperson for President Biya announced that the President would reject dialogue with Mr. Kamto, who had requested a face-to-face discussion.

9. The security situation in the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon remained of serious concern, with a new wave of kidnappings and killings in early 2019. On 24 January, the leader of the separatist group, Southern Cameroons Defence Forces, was reportedly killed by the national armed forces. In February, nearly 70 people were killed during a separatist-imposed 10-day lockdown to disrupt National Youth Day activities in the two regions. On 11 February, an arson attack on the Kumba District Hospital in the South-West Region resulted in at least four patients killed and several others injured. On 19 March, the former Secretary of State in charge of secondary education was kidnapped from his residence in Bamenda by suspected secessionist fighters. On 20 March, 16 students were abducted from the University of Buea by unidentified gunmen. The Government accused the secessionists of the abductions. The authorities announced their intention to carry out investigations into alleged human rights violations by security forces in the affected regions, but no outcome was made public.