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UN Envoy: Terrorism, Electoral Crises Thwart Central Africa Progress

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post near the village of Fotokol as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, Feb. 25, 2015.

FILE - Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post near the village of Fotokol as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, Feb. 25, 2015.

Electoral crises and terrorism are undoing efforts to promote stability and development in Central Africa, the top U.N. diplomat for the area warned Wednesday.

“There are political tensions of concern ... in Central Africa linked to recent or upcoming electoral processes,” Abdoulaye Bathily, the head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told the Security Council. “This undermines the ongoing work to consolidate stability, development and democracy."

Post-election crises have caused bloodshed in Burundi and the Republic of Congo, while there are fears the next presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could do the same.

Bathily said the Central African Republic, which held successful presidential and legislative elections this spring, is just beginning its long, difficult road to stability.

“Armed groups still control large parts of the country," he said, "and the government is in need of the full political, programmatic and financial support of the international community to ensure the re-establishment of state authority throughout the country.”

Threat of armed groups

But perhaps the biggest threats to peace and prosperity in this region are the ones posed by Boko Haram militants and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin have formed a multinational task force to fight Boko Haram, which has killed, kidnapped or displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Lake Chad Basin since 2009.

Bathily said the collective efforts have reduced Boko Haram's ability to attack at will, but the group continues to pose a “serious threat” to regional stability. He urged the international community to support the joint task force politically, logistically and financially.

FILE - Fighters loyal to the Lord's Resistance Army pose with their rifles inside the forest near River Mbou in the Central African Republic in this handout picture dated April 4, 2012.

FILE - Fighters loyal to the Lord's Resistance Army pose with their rifles inside the forest near River Mbou in the Central African Republic in this handout picture dated April 4, 2012.

The envoy also warned about a surge in attacks from the LRA, which has attacked towns in northeastern DRC and significantly stepped up its activities in the eastern CAR this year.

Bathily warned the LRA has reportedly been “extending into areas that had previously seen little to no LRA movement." He noted the group is attacking larger and less isolated areas and kidnapping an increased number of children. The roving group is notorious for its use of child soldiers.

Uganda, which provides the bulk of an African Union regional force fighting the LRA, plans to draw down its 3,000 troops by the end of this year. Bathily warned that if the Ugandan soldiers are not replaced, it could create a vacuum for the LRA as well as other armed groups.

Humanitarian crises

The United Nations says Boko Haram-related violence in Cameroon's Far North Region has sparked a "grave" humanitarian crisis.

FILE - Refugees from Central Africa wait in Garoua-Boulai, Cameroon, for food and clothes delivered by humanitarian associations, April 25, 2014.

FILE - Refugees from Central Africa wait in Garoua-Boulai, Cameroon, for food and clothes delivered by humanitarian associations, April 25, 2014.

There are nearly 170,000 internally displaced persons, as well some 65,000 refugees from Nigeria who are also fleeing the terror group. Separately, eastern Cameroon is hosting more than 250,000 refugees from the CAR.

In the Central African Republic, more than half the country’s population, about 2.3 million people, require humanitarian assistance. There are also nearly a million people who are either internally displaced or refugees.

In Chad, hunger is the enemy. More than 1 million people are expected to be food insecure this year because of Boko Haram violence around Lake Chad and poor rainfall.

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