I would like to start by thanking SRSG Abou Moussa for his very comprehensive briefing.
As reaffirmed in the SRSG briefing today, LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians in four affected countries, in particular in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), countries where LRA continues to perpetrate brutal attacks against the civilian population, causing deaths, abductions and spreading the fear that led so far to more than 443,000 displaced people in LRA affected areas.
Portugal reiterates its strong condemnation of the continued violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by the LRA, in particular those against women and children, including the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape, sexual violence and abductions. We firmly demand the LRA to cease those practices, to release all abducted, to disarm, demobilize and surrender. We also encourage all States to cooperate in order to implement the ICC arrest warrants against Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, in order to bring them to justice.
Portugal commends the efforts that international and local organizations have been undertaking to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of LRA-affected areas. However, we are deeply concerned by the fact that LRA attacks continue to impede humanitarian access to displaced and host communities, and we reaffirm therefore the need for all parties to promote and ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations to the civilian population.
The International Community is at a critical juncture regarding the LRA problem, being crucial that, under the guidance of the UN and in coordination with the African Union and with the LRA-affected countries, efforts be intensified in order to remove the threat posed by that armed group, building upon the institutional progress achieved in these last two years.
Thus, Portugal reaffirms its support to the UN Regional Strategy on LRA, and welcomes the efforts so far undertaken to have it implemented in the five identified areas. In this regard, and aiming to fulfill the strategic goals set in that document, we encourage the Secretariat to pursue its ongoing efforts to draw a prioritized and sequenced implementation plan to support the Strategy.
Regarding the first objective of the Strategy, we welcome the steps already taken by the four affected-countries in order to operationalize the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative (AU-RCI), especially the Regional Task Force (RTF), which remains instrumental to end the LRA threat. In this context, we encourage the Governments of the affected countries to fulfill their commitments under the AU-RCI and to strengthen their political and technical coordination, under the auspices of the African Union and its Special Envoy Francisco Madeira, in order to swiftly agree on a concept of operations for the RTF.
While noting that the affected states have the primary responsibility to protect civilians, we encourage the different UN bodies, especially the peacekeeping missions concerned, to continue to enhance the coordination in that regard between themselves, as well as with other relevant international and regional actors, in the fields of tactical coordination, information-sharing and joint planning. In parallel, DDRRR initiatives, including those developed by the local civil society, must be robustly pursued and supported by the International Community.
Let me now turn to UNOCA, whose work is of great importance to enhance the UN engagement towards the achievement of peace and security in Central Africa, in close coordination with the relevant regional and sub-regional organizations and UN bodies, not only regarding the LRA threat but also on other crucial challenges, including security and terrorism, fight against drug trafficking, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and illicit flows of arms and fighters.
We deplore the growing threats to the personal security of staff members of the UN in Central Africa, and strongly condemn the fact that some of them were recently attacked and killed in carrying out their duties.
Concluding on UNOCA, we reiterate our strong support for its innovative efforts, namely those addressed to help prevent the emergence of new conflicts, resolve existing ones by peaceful means and promote democratic and accountable governance in the sub-region of Central Africa.
Let me briefly revert to and conclude with LRA. It is a topic to which my country attached the utmost importance during our current and ending mandate in the Security Council. I would like to underline once again the need for this Council to remain closely engaged withn this issue. In this regard, we firmly support the adoption of a Security Council Presidential Statement on LRA, as soon as possible. Portugal will continue to spare no efforts to continue to mobilize the international community and to improve the UN’s response to this scourge.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.