Thank you for organizing this meeting today on this very important subject.
I would like to start by thanking SRSG Abou Moussa for the very comprehensive briefings on LRA and on UNOCA.
I also want to thank the Special Envoy of the African Union for the LRA issue, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, for his very important statement to the Council.
LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians in four affected countries. We remain concerned by the fact that attacks against civilians in LRA-affected areas were again on the rise in early 2012 and that more than 445,000 people are internally displaced or living as refugees as a result of activities by LRA.
Portugal strongly condemns the continued violations by the LRA of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including the 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, to release all abducted, and to disarm, demobilize and surrender. We also encourage all States to cooperate in order to implement the ICC arrest warrants for three remaining LRA leaders, in order to bring them to justice.
The present situation clearly shows that LRA remains capable of having a terrible impact on civilian populations, and thus posing a continuing threat to regional security, notwithstanding the fact that over the years that armed group has seen its numbers reduce significantly, as a result of the steps taken by governments in the region, with the assistance of the international community.
It’s crucial that all actors continue to engage until the LRA threat is removed. In this regard, Portugal welcomes the Regional Strategy developed by the UNOCA, in coordination with the relevant UN actors and the African Union, to guide efforts of the UN, including the UN peacekeeping missions in the region, and other stakeholders in support of international efforts, led by the AU, to neutralize the threat posed by LRA and to address the impact of its activities in the four affected countries.
The implementation of this strategy is a crucial step in order to translate the renewed attention given by the International Community to the LRA issue in the last year into concrete results, through fulfilling the five goals set in that strategy, including the full implementation of the African Union-led Regional Cooperation Initiative.
We remain encouraged by the fact that the four LRA-affected countries confirmed their willingness to contribute to the Regional Task Force and to provide premises for the various components of the Regional Initiative. We encourage them to strengthen further the regional cooperation, in order to overcome, with an increased support by the International Community, the important challenges that lay ahead regarding the implementation of the Initiative, and thus succeed in apprehending top commanders of LRA, and enhancing tactical coordination, information-sharing and joint planning.
At the same time, it’s fundamental that committed efforts are developed by all relevant actors in order to fulfill the other strategic objectives set in the Regional Strategy, namely those aimed at: (i) to enhance the protection of civilians; (ii) expanding DDRRR activities to cover all-LRA affected areas; (iii) promoting a coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in those areas; and (iv) providing support to the Government of LRA-affected countries in the domains of peacebuilding, Human Rights, Rule of Law and long-term development, thus enabling them to extend State authority throughout their territories.
Let me conclude on LRA by underlining once again the importance of sustaining the engagement of the Security Council on this issue. Thus, we firmly support the adoption today of a Security Council Presidential Statement, ensuring 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 we believe will contribute significantly to enhance the UN engagement towards the achievement of peace and security in Central Africa. We highlight the importance of UNOCA continuing a close coordination with ECCAS, as well as with UNOWA on relevant security challenges with a great impact not only to West and Central Africa sub-regions but to the entire International Community, including security and terrorism, fight against drug trafficking, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and illicit flows of arms and fighters.
In what concerns LRA, the main issue linking the two comprehensive briefings we had the opportunity to hear today, we welcome that UNOCA will be responsible for overall monitoring and reporting on the Regional Strategy on LRA.
Let me conclude, by reiterating strong support to UNOCA’s 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.
I thank you, Mr. President.