Thank you SRSG Abu Musa for your very comprehensive briefings on LRA and UNOCA.
I also want to thank the Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States, General Louis Sylvain Goma and the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, Ambassador Tete António – for their very important statements to the Council. I also express thanks to the Permanent Representatives of Central African Republic and South Sudan to the UN, for their presences here today.
The Lord’s Resistance Army has been committing atrocities across Central Africa for too long. Portugal strongly condemns the continued violations by the LRA of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including the use of brutal tactics, which include the deliberate recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape, sexual violence and abductions. We firmly urge the LRA to put an end to those practices and to release all abducted.
Over the years, governments in the region, with the assistance of the international community, have taken steps aimed at ending the threat posed by the group. As a result, LRA has seen its numbers reduce significantly. However, regardless of its current small number, the LRA remains capable of having a terrible impact on the civilian populations, and thus threatening regional stability.
It is, therefore, crucial that all actors – Governments of the LRA-affected countries, the AU, the UN and other international, regional and bilateral partners – continue to engage until the threat is removed. We are very much encouraged by the renewed attention the AU and the UN, including this Council, are giving to this issue, which now needs to be sustained and translated into further action.
We commend the important efforts undertaken by the Armed Forces of the four LRA-affected countries to counter the threat posed by that group, as well as other initiatives by the International Community, in coordination with the UN and the AU, to work with militaries from those countries.
However, there is room for further improving the effectiveness of those efforts, particularly through enhancing coordination, co-operation and information-sharing between the different actors, including both between the States in the region and UN Missions. We believe that the UN is well positioned to lead that process, in coordination with the AU. The AU’s efforts to implement a regional cooperation initiative on LRA, must be, on the other hand, supported by the International Community. In this regard, we highlight the importance of a rapid appointment of a Special Envoy.
At the same time, we must bear in mind that in order to counter effectively LRA’s threat we must increase international and regional efforts, under the UN leadership in coordination with the AU, to support the affected countries in protecting their civilian populations. This means increasing the initiatives supportive of capacity-building, good governance and Rule of Law. But also very concrete improvements regarding road and communication infrastructures that will have a considerable impact in the safety of local communities.
In parallel, the International Community, the UN and the AU need to reassess ways to improve the provision of humanitarian and development assistance to the populations in the LRA affected areas. Humanitarian organizations can play a very important role in that context and must be encouraged to strengthen their presence in those areas. At the same time, their presence has an important deterrent effect in LRA attacks and therefore, again contributing to the safety of local communities.
Another important action to counter LRA activities is to intensify messages urging LRA fighters to defect and promoting DDRRR programs. Consistent messaging reaching all LRA operating areas must be expanded. MONUSCO has made progress in this regard, but similar programs should be developed in South Sudan and Central African Republic.
Let me conclude, on LRA, by underlining once again the importance of sustaining the engagement of the Security Council on this issue. The recent developments to combat LRA activity are encouraging and should continue. The Security Council Presidential Statement to be adopted today, the first since 2006, is another step: it sends a strong signal to LRA leaders, on the one hand, and to the civilians living in LRA’s-affected areas, on the other. It ensures that the Council will continue to follow closely this issue. Portugal will spare no efforts to continue to mobilize the international community and to improve the UN’s response to this scourge.
Let me now turn to UNOCA, whose work so far done seems very encouraging, as stated in the recent SG report, particularly considering that the Office was only established in January of this year.
In what concerns LRA, the main issue linking the two comprehensive briefings we had the opportunity to hear today, UNOCA can play a very important role in facilitating the co-operation between the various UN entities present in the region, the AU and LRA-affected countries in order to counter LRA’s threat.
Furthermore, we believe that UNOCA work will contribute significantly to enhance the UN engagement towards the achievement of peace and security in Central Africa, namely through providing a focal point for the UN engagement, helping building institutional capacity in countries of the region, and supporting regional efforts to address cross-cutting issues of concern.
It must be highlighted the importance of UNOCA continuing to develop its activities in close coordination with the Economic Community of Central African States. In this regard, the participation of the Secretary-General of this regional organization in today’s meeting is a very positive and encouraging sign.
We must commend the ongoing efforts undertaken by UNOCA, in coordination with UNOWA and regional and international partners, regarding relevant security challenges with a great impact not only to West and Central Africa sub-regions but to the entire International Community, such as piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and illicit flows of arms and fighters.
The joint UNOCA/UNOWA initiative to promote an integrated UN response to the negative consequences of the recent conflict in Libya in West and Central Africa is another project that should be developed and encouraged.
Let me conclude on UNOCA, by reiterating strong support to its innovative efforts, namely those addressed to help preventing the emergence of new conflicts, resolving existing ones by peaceful means and promoting democratic and accountable governance in the sub-region of Central Africa.