Central African Republic: War Crimes Court’s First Trial

The opening of the first trial at the Central African Republic’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) on April 19, 2022 represents significant progress in the difficult effort to see justice for grave crimes committed in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch issued a question-and-answer document ahead of the SCC’s trial. 

The case involves war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in May 2019 in Koundjili and Lemouna allegedly by the suspects, Issa Sallet Adoum, Ousman Yaouba, and Tahir Mahamat, members of the “3R” rebel group. Human Rights Watch has documented the events.  

“The Special Criminal Court’s first trial is a landmark moment for victims in the Central African Republic who have repeatedly called for justice for heinous crimes committed during successive conflicts in the country,” said Esti Tambay, senior International Justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “This novel court – which combines international and domestic experience to hold those responsible for grave crimes to account – could be an important justice model for other countries to consider.” 

The SCC became operational in 2018 to help limit widespread impunity for serious crimes in the Central African Republic. The court is staffed by both international and national judges and prosecutors, and benefits from international assistance. It has the authority to try grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflicts since 2003.  

The SCC is conducting investigations in tandem with the ICC, the global permanent court of last resort, which currently has four suspects in custody regarding charges of crimes committed in the Central African Republic. The ICC can play an important role in pursuing cases involving more senior leadership, while the SCC seeks to conduct trials in a wider set of cases in the country’s capital, Bangui. 

“The courts should be strategic in their coordination to maximize their combined efforts at securing justice,” Tambay said. “All countries committed to justice have an important role to play in supporting these courts with much-needed funding and to carry out arrests.” 

Central African Republic: Minister Faces Atrocity Charges

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic has arrested and brought charges against a government minister for war crimes and crimes against humanity in an important step for justice, Human Rights Watch said today. A detention hearing for the minister, a former armed group leader, Hassan Bouba Ali, known as Hassan Bouba, will be held on November 26, 2021, based on a court order seen by Human Rights Watch.

Bouba was a leader of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique, UPC), a rebel group that emerged out of the fractured Seleka coalition. In 2017 he was named a special councilor to the president, then named the minister of livestock and animal health in December 2020.

“The UPC is responsible for many serious crimes in the Central African Republic since 2014,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bouba’s arrest sends a strong message that even the most powerful can find themselves subject to the reach of the law and gives hope to the many victims of UPC crimes that they may one day see justice.”

The UPC started committing serious abuses in the Ouaka province in 2014, before it split from the rebel Seleka faction. From 2014 to 2017, Human Rights Watch documented at least 246 civilians killed, dozens of cases of rape and sexual slavery, and 2,046 homes burned by the UPC in the Ouaka province. In 2017 the UPC started to expand into the Basse-Kotto and Mbomou provinces.

In 2017 Human Rights Watch documented that at least 188 civilians had been killed in fighting between the UPC and anti-balaka fighters in the Basse-Kotto province, the majority killed by the UPC. The cases Human Rights Watch documented involving the UPC are most likely only a fraction of the total.

Bouba was expelled from the rebel group in January, after a surge in violence in the country when a new rebellion, of which the UPC was a member, began in December 2020. He was arrested at his office on November 19.

The Special Criminal Court issued a news release on November 22, saying that Bouba had been arrested, but it does not include any details on the crimes against humanity and war crimes that are charged. Bouba is being held at a military camp outside of Bangui.

The SCC is a novel court established to help limit widespread impunity for serious crimes in the Central African Republic. The court is staffed by both international and national judges and prosecutors, and benefits from international assistance. It has the authority to try grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflicts since 2003. Internationally accepted standards for fair trials, including the presumption of innocence and the requirement that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, are enshrined in the court’s rules of procedure and evidence.

The law to establish the court was adopted in 2015, but the court did not officially begin operations until 2018. The SCC was established after national consultations in 2015, known as the Bangui Forum, had prioritized justice, and stated that “no amnesty” would be tolerated for those responsible for and acting as accomplices in international crimes.

Bouba’s charges come two months after another high-profile arrest by the SCC. Capt. Eugène Ngaïkosset – known within the country as “The Butcher of Paoua” – whose arrest was confirmed on September 4, is charged with crimes against humanity. Ngaïkosset led a presidential guard unit implicated in numerous crimes, including the killing of at least dozens of civilians and the burning of thousands of homes in the country’s northwest and northeast between 2005 and 2007.

Bouba is regarded as having moved up to the number two position in the UPC in October 2015 after his predecessor, Hamat Nejad, was killed in an ambush in Bangui. Human Rights Watch spoke and met with Bouba several times between 2015 and 2021, and shared research the organization had conducted on crimes that were committed by the UPC.

The UPC lobbied for a general amnesty during 18 months of peace talks negotiated by the African Union. The peace accord, finalized in Khartoum, Sudan, in February 2019, is vague on steps needed to ensure post-conflict justice and did not mention specific judicial processes, but it recognized the role impunity played in entrenching violence. While the accord did not mention amnesty, Bouba told Human Rights Watch in February 2019 that for the UPC, the peace deal means a general amnesty. “If the government arrests a member of an armed group, then there is no more accord,” he said.

On September 8 the SCC’s substitute prosecutor, Alain Tolmo, announced that the court intends to begin its first trials before the end of the year, and that the court has multiple cases under investigation. The court is based in Bangui, which will help Central Africans affected by the crimes to more easily follow and interact with efforts to ensure that suspects face criminal accountability, Human Rights Watch said. The SCC’s judicial efforts operate in tandem with International Criminal Court investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes committed in the country, along with some cases dealing with lesser conflict-related crimes before the country’s ordinary criminal courts.

The SCC faces funding challenges and needs further support to continue to advance its important work, Human Rights Watch said. Organizations, including Human Rights Watch, wrote to members of the US Congress on November 18 to urge renewal of the US government’s important $3 million 2021 contribution to the court.

“The Special Criminal Court is playing a vital role in helping to puncture pervasive impunity in the Central African Republic,” Mudge said. “When Bouba was promoted to minister many felt it could be yet another example of how it can pay to commit serious crimes in the Central African Republic. His arrest is a warning to other suspects in positions of power that the reign of impunity in the country may be running short.”

Trial of accused war crimes perpetrators in the CAR postponed to 16 February 2021

Trial Chamber V postponed the opening of the trial in the case The Prosecutor v. Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to 16 February 2021.

The opening of the trial was initially scheduled for 9 February 2021 but the Chamber had to postpone due to unexpected Covid-19-related circumstances. The ICC will also explore the technical possibilities to conduct the hearings with remote participation.

Mr Yekatom and Mr Ngaïssona are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR). The hearings will be held before Trial Chamber V, composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt (Presiding judge), Judge Péter Kovács, and Judge Chang-ho Chung.

During these hearings, the Prosecution, the Legal Representatives of the Victims and the Defence of Mr Ngaïssona will deliver their opening statements. The Chamber granted six hours to the Prosecution, three hours to the Legal Representatives of the Victims, to be divided between them, and three hours to the Ngaïssona Defence.

The Defence of Mr Yekatom will make its opening statements at the beginning of the presentation of its evidence. The trial is scheduled to resume on 15 March 2021, when the Prosecution will begin to present its evidence and call its witnesses before the judges.

Anti-Balaka forces in the CAR Photo credit: BBC

The arrest warrant for Alfred Yekatom was issued on 11 November 2018 and unsealed on 17 November 2018. He was surrendered to the ICC on 17 November 2018 and his initial appearance took place on 23 November 2018. The arrest warrant for Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona was issued on 7 December 2018. He was arrested by the authorities of the French Republic on 12 December 2018 and transferred to the ICC detention centre on 23 January 2019, upon completion of necessary national proceedings. His initial appearance took place on 25 January 2019. On 20 February 2019, Pre-Trial Chamber II joined the Yekatom and Ngaïssona cases.

The confirmation of charges hearing was held on 19-25 September and 11 October 2019. On 11 December 2019, Pre-Trial Chamber II partially confirmed the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought by the Prosecutor against Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and committed them to trial. The public redacted version of the decision on the confirmation of charges was published on 20 December 2019.

ICC: Sudanese Fugitive in Custody

The surrender of Ali Kosheib to the International Criminal Court is a major advance for justice for victims of atrocities in Darfur and their families, Human Rights Watch said today. Kosheib (also spelled Kushayb) had been a fugitive from the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by government-backed militias in Darfur since 2007.

Protesters hold posters of Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheib (R) outside the European Union Council in Brussels July 14, 2008. The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor charged Sudan’s president on Monday with masterminding a campaign of genocide in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and persecuting 2.5 million refugees. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM) – GM1E47E1RMI01

Ali Kosheib voluntarily surrendered in the Central African Republic. On June 9, 2020, the ICC announced he was in court custody. The court indicated that the Central African Republic, Chad, France, Netherlands, and United Nations peacekeeping forces provided cooperation and assistance in his surrender.

“Ali Kosheib’s surrender is a landmark for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The world watched in horror as Sudan’s government carried out brutal attacks on Darfur civilians, killing, raping, burning, and looting in villages, starting in 2003. But after 13 years justice finally caught up with one major suspect, Ali Kosheib.”  

Ali Kosheib is the nom de guerre of Ali Mohammed Ali, a leader of the “Janjaweed” militia who also held commanding positions in Sudan’s auxiliary Popular Defense Forces and Central Reserve Police. On April 27, 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kosheib and he is charged with 50 countsof crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

In bringing the charges, the ICC judges found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Kosheib bears responsibility for rapes, destruction of property, perpetrating inhumane acts, and attacking and killing civilians in four villages in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The judges also found evidence indicating that Kosheib directed attacks as well as mobilized, recruited, armed, and provided supplies to Janjaweed militia under his command.  

Based on research in Darfur in 2004 and 2005, Human Rights Watch found that the highest levels of Sudanese leadership were responsible for creating and coordinating the government’s counterinsurgency policy in Darfur, which deliberately and systematically targeted civilians in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Kosheib was one of the key militia leaders implicated in attacks on villages around Mukjar, Bindisi, and Garsila in 2003-2004 in West Darfur. 

Sudanese authorities detained Kosheib on unrelated charges in 2007 and again in 2008. He was later released.

Kosheib has also led or participated in deadly attacks on ethnic Salamat communities in Central Darfur in April 2013. Witnesses placed Kosheib at the scene of an attack on the town of Abu Jeradil, 30 kilometers south of Um Dukhun, on April 8, riding in a government vehicle. Large numbers of heavily armed men, most wearing khaki uniforms, shot indiscriminately, burned homes and shops, stole livestock, and looted goods, killing more than 100 people, injuring scores more, and displacing tens of thousands. 

Arrest warrants for four other Sudanese suspects on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide remain outstanding: Omar al-Bashir, the former president; Ahmed Haroun, former state minister for humanitarian affairs and former governor of Southern Kordofan state; Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein, the former defense minister; and Abdallah Banda Abakaer, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur. All except for Banda are currently in Sudanese custody. Two other Sudanese rebel leaders were charged with crimes related to an attack on an African Union base in Darfur, but one suspect died and the ICC judges declined to confirm charges for the other.

Former president Al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019 after months of protests in Sudan, which government security forces dispersed violently, killing hundreds since December alone. Under Sudan’s power-sharing deal signed on August 17, the transitional government is headed by an 11-member Sovereign Council for a period of three years, followed by elections.

In February 2020, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the Sovereign Council, announced that Sudanese authorities would cooperate with the ICC, after obstruction to the court’s investigation by the former government. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the Sovereign Council confirmed the government’s commitment to cooperate with the ICC during meetings in Khartoum with Human Rights Watch on February 12. 

Sudanese authoritities have yet to take concrete steps to carry out this commitment, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICC opened an investigation into Darfur crimes in 2005. UN Security Council Resolution 1593 referred Darfur to the ICC. As Sudan is not an ICC member, the referral was needed for the ICC to investigate crimes committed in Darfur. The Central African Republic is an ICC member, and all ICC members are obligated to cooperate with the court under the ICC’s Rome Statute.

“Justice is not always immediately possible, making the ICC’s role as a permanent court so critical,” Keppler said. “ICC arrest warrants have no expiration date, but do rely on cooperation from states to be enforced. Now, the Central African Republic, Chad, France, Netherlands, and UN forces have helped make the hope of accountability for victims a reality.”

Central African Republic: New Court Should Step Up Effort

Central Africans have waited so long to see justice for atrocities committed in the Central African Republic. Elise Keppler. Photo credit: HRW

The Central African Republic’s Special Criminal Court should intensify investigations and urgently recruit additional staff to deliver justice for war crimes and other serious offenses, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

By Elise Keppler
Associate Director, International Justice Program
Human Rights Watch

The new court is operating in a tremendously difficult setting after years of brutal conflict and insecurity in the country and needs greater government and international support.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a new court in the Central African Republic’s court system with the authority to try grave crimes committed during the country’s armed conflicts since 2005.

“Central Africans have waited so long to see justice for the many killings, rapes, and other atrocities committed in the Central African Republic,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The Special Criminal Court holds promise but it’s had a slow start and needs to intensify investigations so trials can be initiated based on strong, compelling evidence.”

The Special Criminal Court is staffed by both international and national judges and prosecutors, and benefits from international assistance. The law to establish the court was adopted in 2015, but the court had to wait to start investigations until parliament adopted its rules of procedure and evidence in May 2018. The court held its first official session in October, and investigations are now pending in the prosecutor’s office and before the court’s investigative judges.

Following up on its May 2018 report on the Special Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch conducted research in the country’s capital, Bangui, from April 10 to 14, 2019 on the court’s progress and the challenges it faces.

Researchers interviewed 25 people, including court staff, United Nations staff, court consultants, human rights defenders, lawyers, and donors, and conducted two group interviews, one with human rights defenders and one with victims who are working with associations of victims of the crimes. Human Rights Watch sought to meet with government officials who work on the Special Criminal Court, but they were not available. Human Rights Watch also conducted interviews by phone and in person in New York in May, June, and July, in addition to reviewing relevant documents on the court’s activities.

“Justice must be at the forefront of a state that promotes good governance and democracy,” one human rights defender told Human Rights Watch in April. “Without justice, everything else will be wrecked.”

Human rights defenders and victims expressed strong concerns that vague provisions on justice in a peace accord signed in February could limit the government’s cooperation and support to the Special Criminal Court. They criticized the integration of people implicated in crimes into the government as a result of the recent peace deal. “We are seeing at this moment that our persecutors rule over us,” said a woman who leads a victims’ group. “They have entered the government.”

Human Rights Watch identified key elements needed to bring the court to full operations:

  1. Staffing: The level of court staff overseeing investigations is very limited. Existing staff should work to intensify investigative activity, but an additional panel of investigative judges and more prosecutors would help boost investigative capacity. Many of the staff needed for the court’s administration are also not in place and should be recruited without further delay.
  • Services: The court needs programs that have yet to exist in the country’s domestic system, including witness and victim protection and support, legal assistance for accused and victims, and outreach to affected communities. International experts are assisting in developing these areas, but further progress is needed and the experience gained should be leveraged to benefit the country’s national justice system over time. The government should also move ahead with providing secure accommodation for the Special Criminal Court’s domestic judges.
  • Coordination: The court remains highly dependent on the UN, which can limit the court’s capacity to make decisions and move its work forward. Efforts to regularly bring together court principals, UN partners, and donors to resolve outstanding questions more efficiently are underway and should be continued. A unified comprehensive budget that identifies all court costs and funding sources should also be prepared to better clarify the court’s needs.
  • Funding: As of July 10, the court had a funding gap of approximately US$1 million for 2019 operations, and no funds pledged for future years of operations, which are anticipated to annually cost approximately $12.4 million. Existing donors – the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the European Union – should increase their support. Other justice-supporting states that have yet to make a financial contribution, such as Canada, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden should consider stepping forward. UN oversight in the handling of funds remains advisable to insulate the court from actual or perceived concerns of financial impropriety. 

    “The Special Criminal Court emerged out of the strong, unequivocal desire on the part of Central Africans to break cycles of violence and impunity in the country,” Keppler said. “The government and international partners should protect their investment by being vigilant on the need for justice and giving the court essential resources to get its difficult job done.”

CAR: Yekatom and Ngaïssona Confirmation of charges hearing postponed to 19 September 2019

Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has on 15 May 2019 decided to postpone the commencement of the confirmation hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona to 19 September 2019, instead of 18 June 2019.

The Chamber granted a request  of the Prosecutor for the postponement of the hearing in light of the need to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses.

The purpose of the confirmation of charges hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes contained in the arrest warrant. If the charges are confirmed, in full or in part, the case will be transferred to a Trial Chamber, which will conduct the subsequent phase of the proceedings: the trial.

Alfred Yekatom is alleged to be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in various locations in the Central African Republic, including Bangui and the Lobaye Prefecture, between 5 December 2013 and August 2014, namely: murder, torture and cruel treatment, mutilation, intentional attack against the civilian population, intentional attack against buildings dedicated to religion, enlistment of children under the age of 15 years and their use to participate actively in hostilities, displacement of the civilian population and destruction of the adversary’s property, as war crimes; and murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts, as crimes against humanity. Mr Yekatom was surrendered to the ICC custody on 17 November 2018. His initial appearance before Pre-Trial Chamber II took place on 23 November 2018.

Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona is alleged to be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in various locations in the Central African Republic between at least 5 December 2013 and at least December 2014, namely: murder and attempted murder, torture, cruel treatment, mutilation, intentionally directing an attack against the civilian population, intentionally directing an attack against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance, intentionally directing an attack against buildings dedicated to religion, pillaging , enlistment of children under the age of 15 years and their use to participate actively in hostilities, displacement of the civilian population and destroying or seizing the property of an adversary, as war crimes; and murder and attempted murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts, as crimes against humanity. Mr Ngaïssona was transferred to ICC custody on 23 January 2019, following the completion of necessary national proceedings in France, where he was arrested on 12 December 2018. His initial appearance before Pre-Trial Chamber II took place on 25 January 2019.

On 20 February 2019, Pre-Trial Chamber II decided to join the cases of The Prosecutor v. Alfred Yekatom andThe Prosecutor v. Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona. This case is assigned to Pre-Trial Chamber II, composed of Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua (Presiding judge), Judge Tomoko Akane and Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala.

UN-AU Joint Task Force on Peace and Security Holds Sixteenth Consultative Meeting in Addis-Ababa

The meeting explored prospects for cooperation in support of the upcoming electoral processes on the continent and discussed the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Burundi, Mali and the Sahel region including the security situation in Burkina Faso and Niger. They also exchanged views on the situations in Libya, South Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin region.

The African Union (AU) Commission and the United Nations (UN) Secretariat were represented respectively by Commissioners Smaïl Chergui (Peace and Security), Minata Samaté-Cessouma (Political Affairs); and the Under-Secretaries-General Rosemary DiCarlo (Political and Peacebuilding Affairs), Jean-Pierre Lacroix (Peace Operations) and Hanna Tetteh (Special Representative of the Secretary General to the African Union).

They were accompanied by other senior officials from the two Organizations including Under-Secretary General Bience Gawanas, Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General and Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations.

The meeting reviewed the status of the partnership between the UN and the AU. The Joint Task Force took note of the considerable progress achieved in the UN-AU partnership including the holding of the Second African Union-United Nations Annual Conference in Addis Ababa on 9 July 2018, the 12th UN-AU Consultative Meeting on the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflict (Desk-to-Desk) to be held in Addis Ababa on 11-12 March 2019, as well as the upcoming Third UN-AU Annual Conference.

In the review of the status of implementation of the UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, the Joint Task Force welcomed the cooperation between the two organizations in Madagascar and CAR as models of cooperation which offer useful lessons to inform future joint endeavours in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

The Joint Task Force acknowledged the increased mutual support to peace operations in Africa. In furtherance of this mutual cooperation, they explored the “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative to enable missions to be more effective, better equipped, safer and more robust. The Joint Task Force also underlined the need to jointly promote the full participation of Women in electoral and peace processes as well as peace operations, including at the leadership level.

The Joint Task Force welcomed the signing of the peace and reconciliation agreement in the Central African Republic on the 6 February 2019 by the Government of the Central African Republic and the 14 armed groups and congratulates all stakeholders for the successful conclusion of the talks that took place in Khartoum, Sudan. The Joint Task Force commended the leadership role of the African Union in the talks, which were carried out with the support and collaboration of the United Nations, within the context of the African Initiative for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic. The Joint Task Force underlined the need for continued engagement by all parties and called on neighbouring countries and all relevant international and regional partners for support in the implementation of the agreement reached for the stability of the Central African Republic and the region.

On the situation in the Great Lakes, they welcomed the peaceful elections and transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo whilst appreciating the need to redouble efforts to resolve the persistent security challenges in the eastern parts of the country. They welcomed the readiness of the Government of the DRC to work in collaboration with the UN to address the challenges facing the DRC. On the situation in Burundi, the Joint Task Force took note of the recent Summit of the East African Community (EAC) held in Arusha, Tanzania on 1February 2019, and reiterated its support to the EAC-led mediation.

On the situation in Mali, the Joint Task Force was encouraged by recent progress in the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, including the launching of an accelerated DDR process. The Joint Task Force called upon all stakeholders to sustain their commitment and accelerate the implementation of the measures under the Agreement. The Joint Task Force equally expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation in the centre of Mali and urged the Government to augment its efforts in addressing the increasingly complex situation, with the support of partners. The Joint Task Force noted the need for all international partners to continue to support MINUSMA. The issue of the establishment of a joint group to work on residual issues including inter communal violence was raised and can be a topic for further discussions.

On the Sahel, the meeting agreed to seek to enhance collaboration between AU High Representative for the Sahel, Mr. Pierre Buyoya, and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas to explore ways of jointly supporting initiatives to prevent and resolve conflict and sustain peace in the Sahel. Regarding the G5 Joint Force, the meeting welcomed the resumption of its operations and called on international partners to provide it with necessary resources to implement its mandate. The meeting further appealed to the international community to honour the pledges made at the donors conference held in Nouakchott, Mauritania in December 2018 to address development needs.

The Joint Task Force expressed its continued engagement in support of the implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan. The senior officials discussed the need for increased political and financial support to the peace process and underlined the importance of creating conducive conditions for the return of opposition groups before the commencement of the interim period of April 2019. They called for support of the international community to the R-JMEC and CTSAMVM to safeguard compliance with the R-ARCSS, especially the ceasefire. The senior officials welcomed the role played by IGAD in the peace process and took note of the holding of an upcoming IGAD Summit.

The senior officials also discussed the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region and expressed concern at the persistent attacks by Boko Haram, which continue to exert a heavy impact on civilians. They welcomed the endorsement by the AU Peace and Security Council of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin. The AU and the UN reaffirmed their commitment to support the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in the implementation of the strategy and called on donors to honour the pledges made during the High-Level Conference on the Lake Chad Basin region in Berlin in September 2018.

The next statutory meeting of the Joint Task Force will take place in New York in September 2019, on the margins of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.