Expressing its concern about the consequences of current political tensions for stability and functioning of institutions of the Central African Republic, the Security Council today called on that country's Government to take concrete steps to implement political, economic, social and security reforms and to fulfil the commitments it had made in its letters to the Secretary-General.
In a statement read out by its President, Robert Fowler (Canada), the Council also recalled that the success, future mandate and ongoing presence of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) were closely linked to fulfilment of these commitments, particularly to the immediate resumption of a constructive political dialogue. The MINURCA mandate expires on 28 February.
The Council reaffirmed that the complete implementation of the Bangui Agreements and of the National Reconciliation Pact was essential to peace and national reconciliation in the Central African Republic, and emphasized that outstanding issues must be settled in accord with the Bangui Agreements. It stressed the need for the parties to cooperate closely and work to achieve political consensus.
The Council fully supported the call by the Secretary-General's Special Representative to the Central African Republic political leaders and authorities to resolve the political impasse, welcomed efforts to that end, and decided to remain seized of the matter.
The meeting, which began at 12:38 p.m., was adjourned at 12:45 p.m.
The Security Council, noting the letter of 9 February 1999 from the President of the Central African Republic to the President of the Council (S/1999/132), takes note with satisfaction of the commitment expressed by the President of the Central African Republic to maintain peace in the Central African Republic through dialogue and consultation. In this context, it strongly reaffirms that the complete implementation of the Bangui Agreements (S/1997/561 Appendices III - VI) and of the National Reconciliation Pact (S/1998/219) is essential to peace and national reconciliation in the Central African Republic.
The Security Council calls upon the Government of the Central African Republic to continue to take concrete steps to implement political, economic, social and security reforms as referred to in the report of the Secretary- General of 23 February 1998 (S/1998/148) and to fulfil the commitments expressed in the letters of 8 January 1998 (S/1998/61, annex) and of 23 January 1999 (S/1999/98, annex) to the Secretary-General by the President of the Central African Republic. It recalls that the success, the future mandate and the ongoing presence of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic are closely linked to the fulfilment of these commitments, in particular the immediate resumption of a constructive political dialogue.
The Security Council expresses its concern about the consequences that the current political tensions have for the stability and the functioning of the institutions of the Central African Republic. It reaffirms that the Government, political leaders and the people of the Central African Republic bear the primary responsibility for national reconciliation, the maintenance of a stable and secure environment and the reconstruction of their country. It emphasizes the importance of continuing efforts in the Central African Republic to settle outstanding contentious issues peacefully and democratically in accordance with the Bangui Agreements. It stresses the need for both the "mouvance présidentielle" and the opposition parties to cooperate closely and work actively with the aim of achieving the political consensus indispensable to stability in the Central African Republic.
The Security Council considers that a smooth preparation of free and fair Presidential elections, for which proper steps should be taken as soon as possible, requires a certain level of political consensus and the opening of a genuine dialogue between all the constituent parties of the National Assembly. It also considers that consensual preparation for the Presidential elections can only reinforce the legitimacy of the next President of the Republic and also secure a sustainable civil peace. It fully supports the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in his call to the Central African political leaders and authorities to resolve the political impasse so the country can move forward, and welcomes the current efforts undertaken to this end.
The Security Council will remain seized of the matter.
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Letter to Council
When the Council met this afternoon, it had before it a letter dated 9 February from the President of the Central African Republic to the President of the Security Council (document S/1999/132). In the letter, President Patassé expresses a wish to see the mandate of MINURCA extended until presidential elections were held. He reaffirms that every effort would be made to maintain peace in the Central African Republic through dialogue and consensus-building. He also indicates that the implementation of the remainder of the Bangui Agreements must be accompanied by a formal return to constitutional legality, and notes that the three governing powers of democracy -- executive, judicial and legislative levels -- were functioning normally.
The Secretary-General's fourth report on the situation in the Central African Republic recommends the extension of the mandate of MINURCA, which expires on 28 February, for six months, until 31 August 1999.
The report (document S/1999/98), dated 29 January, states that the extension was subject to a further determination by the Council after three months that the Government had made acceptable progress in carrying out the reforms outlined in President Ange Félix Patassé's letter of 23 January, which is annexed to the report. In order to assist the Council in assessing adherence to the commitments made by the Government, the Secretary-General would submit an initial report by 15 April 1999, followed by further reports, every six to eight weeks.
The MINURCA has been a source of much-needed stability, both in the Central African Republic and in the subregion as a whole, the report states. The premature withdrawal of international support in any of the key areas could easily undermine and even reverse the fragile progress made so far. The MINURCA should continue to support efforts to resolve the political, economic and security-related problems facing the country and, to that end, should stay in the Central African Republic until the forthcoming presidential elections sometime this year. The MINURCA should assist the Government in preparing and establishing a secure environment for the elections and should monitor and verify their conduct.
The report adds that the military component of MINURCA should be retained at its current strength, which is 1,350 personnel. While the security situation in Bangui is generally calm at the moment, the current stability is, in large part, the result of the presence and activities of MINURCA. The Government's commitment to carry out a number of necessary reforms is an indispensable condition for further progress. It is now imperative that the President's commitments be translated into concrete measures.
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The report states that in the elections held on 22 November and 13 December 1998 for the 109 seats in the National Assembly, the ruling party and its allies, known collectively as the Mouvance Présidentielle, won 54 seats, while the coalition of opposition parties won 55 seats. However, in the period following the formal proclamation of the results by the Constitutional Court, one opposition legislator announced his support for the Mouvance Présidentielle, giving that party a majority in the Assembly and the right to the presidency and other key positions of the Assembly's Bureau.
The opposition parties reacted strongly to this development, says the report, walking out of the Assembly shortly after it convened on 4 January 1999. Roadblocks and barricades were set up in certain parts of the capital, Bangui, and MINURCA was placed on alert and increased its patrolling activity before calm was restored. Despite intensive consultations with the parties conducted by the Secretary-General's Special Representative between 8 and 10 January, the impasse has persisted.
In accordance with the Bangui Agreements, signed in January 1997, the Government of the Central African Republic committed itself to a number of reforms. However, the most important of these, concerning the restructuring of the armed forces and the adoption of measures to strengthen the economy, remain to be accomplished. With the assistance and participation of MINURCA, a joint committee established by the Government has drawn up two draft bills and four draft decrees relating to the restructuring of the defence and security forces. These now await the approval of the National Assembly.
The Secretary-General goes on to say that the United Nations military personnel should neither engage in the military training of the personnel of the armed forces of the Central African Republic nor provide any form of operational assistance to them. However, the United Nations could assist in the creation of a renovated armed force under civilian democratic control that is representative of the nation as a whole and administered efficiently. A small team of United Nations military experts could provide managerial and organizational advice to the relevant officials of the Ministry of Defence of the Central African Republic in charge of the restructuring process. The proposed team of experts, numbering not more than 20 to 25 persons, would be accommodated within the already established limits of the force.
The general aim of the 24 civilian police officers attached to MINURCA is to assist in the creation of a police force whose personnel and operations meet internationally accepted standards of policing in democratic societies, the report adds. In that effort, they need the continued assistance of donors willing to provide the technical resources required by the restructured police force and gendarmerie, as well as the maintenance of a reasonably stable and secure environment.
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On the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report states that, in early January, heavy fighting broke out between the forces of President Laurent Kabila and Congolese rebels and their allies. The fighting resulted in an influx of some 5,000 persons into the territory of the Central African Republic, about half of whom were registered as refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Pursuant to a defence agreement between President Patassé and President Kabila, some 550 Congolese government troops then transited through Bangui and across the river into Congolese territory. The opposition, stressing that the National Assembly has never ratified the defence agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has accused President Patassé of risking the involvement of the Central African Republic in the conflict across the border.
Annexed to the report is a letter dated 23 January from President Patassé, which makes a number of detailed commitments arising from the Bangui Agreements and in line with the concerns expressed by the Secretary-General's Special Representative to the Central African Republic, Oluyemi Adeniji, and the international financial institutions. Those commitments include:
-- the participation of the opposition, in a constructive manner, in the National Assembly and its Bureau and in the political life of the country in general;
-- the adoption by the National Assembly, at an early date, of a budget satisfactory to the international financial institutions before their visit scheduled to take place in February;
-- the adoption of the draft laws on the restructuring of the armed forces by the National Assembly at an early date and the approval by the President of the related draft decrees;
-- the restriction of the activities of FORSDIR to exclude the functions of the police and gendarmerie and the verification by MINURCA of the measures taken by the authorities to that end; and
-- the finalization of measures to privatize State enterprises, particularly PETROCA, within the next few weeks.
In an addendum to his third report of December 1998 on MINURCA (document S/1998/1203/Add.1), the Secretary-General states that extending MINURCA's mandate, with its existing structure and strength -- including its political, military and civilian components -- as recommended in the earlier report, is projected to cost $62.1 million. That figure is based on the time frame for holding presidential elections in the latter part of 1999, with the electoral process to be completed by the end of October and the Mission terminated within the next 60 days.
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