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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/2021/975)

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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) every six months. It provides an assessment of the major political and security trends in Central Africa since the report dated 1 December 2020 (S/2020/1154). 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 period under review was marked by efforts to advance the political transition in Chad and an inclusive national dialogue in the Central African Republic, the presidential election in Sao Tome and Principe and persisting violence in Cameroon and the Lake Chad basin. The subregion pursued efforts to address the multifaceted impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, including by advancing vaccination campaigns. The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) pursued its institutional reform and implementation of its strategic priorities for the period 2021–2025, notably on peace and security.

Political developments and trends

3. Several initiatives were taken to advance regional integration. On 30 July, the President of the Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, in his capacity as Chair of ECCAS, chaired the nineteenth Conference of ECCAS Heads of State and Government, which discussed – in a virtual format – political and security issues in the subregion and adopted decisions to advance the regional integration process. On 16 September, the President of Angola, João Lourenço, in his capacity as Chairperson of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, convened the third mini-summit of the International Conference on the situation in the Central African Republic. Attended by, inter alia, the Heads of State of the Central African Republic, Chad and the Congo, the summit adopted a joint road map with a view to advancing the peace process in the country in line with the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic of 2019 and urged the Government to declare a ceasefire. On 15 October, the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadéra, declared an immediate and unilateral ceasefire across the country, in line with the joint road map of the International Conference.

4. In Angola, the constitutional reform legislation was adopted by the National Assembly on 22 June. On 10 September, the President of Angola returned an electoral reform bill to the National Assembly for a second reading, following its adoption by majority vote in parliament, citing the need to provide “healthy competition, fairness and electoral truth”. On 11 September, opposition party União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola organized a large-scale protest, with significant youth presence, to demand “free, fair and transparent elections”. On 17 November, the electoral reform bill was adopted in a second reading by the National Assembly, with the opposition voting against it. The socioeconomic situation in the country prompted strikes in different sectors. Some journalists expressed concern over being targeted for criticizing the authorities, while others received verbal aggression from opposition supporters on the margins of protests. Opposition parties have expressed concern about unequal access to resources and to State media outlets ahead of the general elections scheduled for August 2022. The former President, José Eduardo Dos Santos, returned to Angola on 14 September after two years of absence. On 5 November, Mr. Lourenço filed his candidacy for a second term as President of the ruling party, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, which is scheduled to elect a new president at its congress from 9 to 11 December 2021.

5. In Cameroon, notwithstanding efforts by national and international actors, dialogue between the Government and armed groups in the North-West and SouthWest Regions has yet to gain momentum. In line with the recommendations of the Major National Dialogue of 2019, progress with regard to efforts towards decentralization continued, but appeared to have limited impact on the ground as violence persisted. A national women’s convention for peace, the first of its kind to be held in Cameroon, was convened in Yaoundé from 29 to 31 July. Participants expressed support for peace efforts in the country. From 21 to 24 September and from 5 to 9 October, the Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, visited the North-West and South-West Regions to assess the implementation of the recommendations of the Major National Dialogue. He noted the need to enhance communication efforts on those recommendations.

6. In Chad, the transitional authorities made progress towards key transition milestones despite the challenging security and economic context. On 29 July, the Transitional Government adopted a road map that, inter alia, envisages an inclusive national dialogue in late 2021 leading to the adoption of a new constitution and, thereafter, the holding of elections in September 2022. On 13 August, the transitional Prime Minister, Albert Pahimi Padacké, appointed the 69 members of the committee in charge of organizing the inclusive dialogue, including 15 women. Preparations for the inclusive national dialogue, including with the participation of armed groups, are under way. In an address to the nation on 10 August, the President of the Transitional Military Council, General Mahamat Idriss Déby, called upon the armed opposition to join the inclusive national dialogue, and on 17 August, appointed former President, Goukouni Weddeye, to chair the special technical committee on their participation. On 24 September, the leader of the Transitional Military Council appointed the 93 members of the National Transitional Council, of whom 30 per cent are women, comprising members of the outgoing legislature, including from the former opposition, and armed groups, as well as representatives of civil society and youth. On 4 October, the organizing committee of the national inclusive dialogue presented the road map of the dialogue to international partners. Wakit Tama, an influential opposition platform, continued to reject the transition process as non-transparent and non-inclusive, organizing several rallies to demand the revision of the transition charter and a genuinely inclusive dialogue.

7. The transitional authorities took some measures to open politic al space in the context of the transition. On 13 July, the transitional authorities authorized the first opposition demonstration since the late President, Idriss Déby Itno, came to power in 1990. Between July and October, civil society and opposition groups critical of the transitional authorities organized several peaceful, authorized demonstrations in N’Djamena calling for an inclusive dialogue; however, some unauthorized demonstrations by Wakit Tama continued to be repressed. At the first Chadian women’s symposium for security and sustainable peace, held in N’Djamena on 27 June, participants called for increased women’s participation in conflict resolution and an inclusive national dialogue.

8. On 28 July, the High Representative of the African Union and Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Chad, Basile Ikouébé, officially assumed his duties. On 3 August, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union issued a statement in which it welcomed progress achieved in the transition; commended the Chadian authorities for creating an enabling environment; and encouraged them to expedite the implementation of the remaining transition tasks and recommit to completing the transition within the stipulated 18-month time frame. Key regional and international partners of Chad formed the International Group of Partners for Support to the Transition in Chad, aimed at mobilizing regional and international support for the transition under the leadership of the African Union. Six meetings of the International Group have been held to date.

9. In the Congo, against the backdrop of persisting economic challenges aggravated by COVID-19, authorities reiterated their commitment to sustainable debt management and good governance. On 21 June, the Prime Minister presented the Government’s action plan for the period 2021–2026 to the National Assembly. Opposition parties continued to call for an inclusive dialogue to address the country’s challenges.

10. In Equatorial Guinea, the situation remained marked by the impact of COVID-19, steps taken by the authorities to foster macroeconomic stability and preparations for elections. On 28 July, the highest court in France, the Cour de cassation, upheld the conviction of the Vice-President, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, for embezzlement and corruption. On 22 July, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced sanctions against Mr. Obiang Mangue for misappropriation of State funds. On 3 July, a military tribunal sentenced two membe rs of the armed forces to 30 and 50 years in prison, respectively, for negligence in relation to the series of explosions at the military barracks in Bata on 7 March 2021, which left 107 people dead and 700 injured. Some political campaigns started in preparation for the legislative elections, scheduled to be held in 2022.

11. In Gabon, authorities focused on governance and economic recovery, given the economic and health crises facing the country. On 13 September, the Council of Ministers adopted an ordinance requiring candidates for the presidential election to reside in the country for an uninterrupted period of at least six months each year during the two years preceding the election. The opposition criticized the initiative as purporting to exclude opposition candidates from taking part in the 2023 election. Several opposition leaders and allies of the former presidential candidate, Jean Ping, defected from his movement and returned to the ruling Parti démocratique gabonais.

12. In Sao Tome and Principe, the first round of the presidential election took place on 18 July. It was contested by 19 candidates, including three women. The incumbent President, Evaristo Carvalho, was not seeking re-election. Carlos Vila Nova, the candidate supported by the outgoing President’s party, Acção Democrática Independente, and Guilherme Posser da Costa, backed by the Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe – Partido Social Democrata party that dominates the Government, advanced to the second round. The second round, initially meant to be held on 8 August, took place on 5 September owing to a disagreement within the Constitutional Court on whether to proceed with a recount. Observer missions from the African Union and ECCAS commended the country for a peaceful and transparent election, while calling for the increased participation of women in the electoral process. On 14 September, the Constitutional Court declared Mr. Vila Nova the winner, with 57.6 per cent of the vote. He was sworn into office on 2 October. ECCAS deployed an electoral assistance mission and appointed a special envoy to Sao Tome and Principe in the context of the presidential election.