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Armed groups pose 'critical threat' to stability in Central Africa, UN envoy tells Security Council

8 December 2015 – The violent activities of armed groups such as Boko Haram and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have triggered a dire humanitarian and security crisis in Central Africa, the United Nations envoy on the region said today, telling the Security Council the challenges faced by the affected countries should not be underestimated and ongoing vigilance and international support is needed.

"[Boko Haram] stepped up its attacks against civilian and military targets in the Lake Chad Basin area, notably in Cameroon and Chad, leading to a further deterioration in the security, economic, humanitarian and human rights situation," said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abdoulaye Bathily, in his briefing.

He also added that the proximity of other regional conflicts near the Lake Chad Basin region, combined with the risks of radicalization, and the chronic poverty of already marginalized populations remain a serious concern.

Mr. Bathily noted that the influx of refugees into the Lake Chad Basin region has over-stretched Government capacities and further limited service delivery in the affected areas and the refugee situation comes in addition to a significant number of internally displaced persons and returnees who require immediate assistance.

At the same time, he observed that Boko Haram has been weakened as a result of the intensified military campaign by countries of the Lake Chad Basin, and has started resorting to attacks against soft targets. "The ongoing efforts to operationalize the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) underscore the commitment by the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin to coordinate action to fight Boko Haram," he added.

Mr. Bathily also expressed hope that the joint summit of Central and West Africa Heads of State and Government, to explore concrete ways to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization, will take place without further delay, and also called for increased support from international partners in the fight against terrorism, radicalization and armed violence.

Speaking about Central African Republic (CAR), the Special Representative noted that the recent spate of inter-communal violence that erupted in September generated additional refugee populations within the region, and gross human rights violations against local populations, particularly in the capital, Bangui. The violence, Mr. Bathily noted, had also weakened the national reconciliation process and the proliferation of small arms and gang-related criminality.

He stressed that Pope Francis's recent visit to the country had been "timely" and his "message of peace and his prayers – in Catholic churches and Muslim mosques – were embraced by the population and welcomed as symbols of hope."

Mr. Bathily said that in this context, it is critical to accelerate the pace of implementation of the recommendations of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation and for the presidential and legislative elections to take place peacefully to conclude the transition.

The Special Representative also noted that while the killings and attacks perpetrated by the LRA have diminished, the group continues to pose a threat to regional security, especially in CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"The security and humanitarian crisis triggered by the LRA's activities, including looting and abductions should not be underestimated. The LRA has adapted to our strong collective response by keeping a low profile, buying time and taking advantage of coordination gaps," said Mr. Bathily.

He also added that the UNOCA continues its active engagement on the LRA issue, including on the implementation of the UN regional strategy to address he threat and impact of the LRA.

Lastly, highlighting the approaching electoral cycles in several countries, the Special Representative said that the mounting tensions in the region, in part from disputes over national constitutions and lack of political consensus, must be addressed.

"I will continue to use my good offices to engage with stakeholders in the sub-region to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes, including through inclusive political dialogue," Mr. Bathily concluded.

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