|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6027th Meeting (AM)
LONG-AWAITED INCLUSIVE POLITICAL DIALOGUE SET TO BEGIN IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC,
AIMED AT PAVING WAY FOR RECONCILIATION, STABILIZATION, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Special Representative Says Two-Week Dialogue, To Be Held in Bangui,
Will Focus on Politics and Governance, Security and Armed Groups, Development
Key political actors in the Central African Republic were set to begin a long-awaited inclusive political dialogue this Friday, to pave the way for national reconciliation and stabilization, the United Nations leading envoy to that conflict-ridden nation told the Security Council this afternoon.
François Lonseny Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA), said the two-week dialogue, scheduled for 5 December to 20 December in the capital of Bangui, would focus on three major areas of concern: politics and governance, security and armed groups, and socio-economic development. It would undoubtedly help create the peaceful environment needed to properly hold the nation’s general elections scheduled for 2010, he said, adding that the international community must do its part by consistently supporting the process to disarm and demobilize ex-combatants, while reintegrating them into society.
The Mission de consolidation de la paix en Centrafique (MICOPAX) and the regional peace force of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) -- which were mandated in September to supervise implementation of an immediate ceasefire in the Central African Republic -- had arranged for 35 major players to attend the political dialogue, among them, former President Angeo-Felix Patasse, in exile since the coup d’état of 15 March 2003, and Jean Jacques Demafouth, former Minister of Defence of the Armée pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie (APRD) rebel group, in exile since 2002, he said. Mr. Fall added that his mediation efforts to bridge differences between Government officials and the opposition had led to consensus on the make-up of the Committee for the Organization of Dialogue, which would be headed by former President Burdais Pierre Buyoya.
The tireless efforts of Gabonese President El Hadj Omar Bongo-Ondimba and the encouragement of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been instrumental in getting the various political actors to the negotiating table, as had the consolidated General Amnesty Law, Mr. Fall said. That law, put into effect 13 October by Central African Republic President François Bozize, covered offences committed by a wide range of individuals. Only those crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were not included. Still, as the APRD and the coalition of opposition parties, the Union des forces vives de la nation (UFVN) had expressed serious reservations about the law, attention had to be focused on ending that deadlock.
Mr. Fall also shed light on the country’s fragile human rights and security situation, particularly in the north-west provinces, where several clashes between the APRD and Government forces had occurred, leading to mutual accusations of ceasefire violations. On 11 November in Miskine, 10 Government soldiers had died. Despite the 21 June signing of the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement, elements of the APRD continued to commit atrocities, particularly extrajudicial executions, pillaging and the forced recruitment of young villagers as soldiers or informants, causing mass-scale displacement of the population. The national forces of defence and security had been accused of human rights abuses. Moreover, trade union leaders had threatened to go on strike at the beginning of 2009 if workers’ salaries continued to be unpaid. There was some progress in the economic sector, but many mine operators had lost their licenses for failure to honour contracts. And much more must be done to ensure transparency in natural resource exploitation.
He said that, during the last few months, the Follow-up Committee to the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement held three meetings to examine contention points and different interpretations of the peace accord. During a 19 November meeting, a framework document to promote disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of military groups was adopted. On 26 October, the Government announced the release of 12 prisoners of the APRD, MDPC and the UFDR, a positive step forward and a sign of its commitment to the Libreville accord.
The United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) had recently published its first report on human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and, at the country level, it continued to help fight HIV/AIDS and mobilize resources for capacity-building to meet the country’s immense needs, he said. Since June, the United Nations had worked closely with Central African Republic authorities, within the framework of the Peacebuilding Fund, to consider the country’s immediate needs and priority areas, notably security sector reform, good governance and the rule of law, and the revitalization of communities affected by conflict. The Fund had approved $10 million to implement 11 of 26 submitted project proposals.
The Secretary-General, following consultations with national and international partners, intended to submit a proposal to the Council to set up an integrated mission in the country, with a view to coherent and coordinated action, he continued. In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission had organized its second meeting on the configuration of the Central African Republic on 8 October and made its second visit to the country from 30 October to 6 November, during which it organized several meetings with key development partners and United Nations agencies to discuss priorities.
Also addressing the Council, Jan Grauls ( Belgium), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Central African Republic country-specific configuration, said that a strategic framework would be unveiled in February 2009 to clarify the Commission’s role in helping the Central African Republic Government put the country on the path to stabilization.
Mr. Grauls lauded the Government’s focus in recent years on restoring stability and launching a national reconciliation process, even as insecurity and poverty continued to make living conditions difficult. The start of the peacebuilding process had awakened hope within the international community that the situation would improve a sense of confidence in the political will of the country’s actors to bring about change. “National stakeholding” had already been identified within the peacebuilding priorities, he said, welcoming the Central African Republic Government’s commitment to set up the necessary structures to carry out those priorities.
The inclusive political dialogue should be a “decisive step forward” to an agreement between conflicting parties, he said. Its success would allow the country to enter a new, post-conflict phase of development. On two occasions, the Secretary-General had insisted on the need to facilitate that dialogue, and he expressed hope that those calls would not go unheeded. He also paid tribute to the “decisive role” being played by the President of Gabon in the process that led the launching of the dialogue.
Noting that the peacebuilding efforts would focus on a limited set of priorities, including good governance and the rule of law, he said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had launched two good governance programmes in October. BONUCA’s recent report also formed a sound basis of cooperation with Central African Republic authorities, particularly with regard to ending impunity on the part of the armed force and the police. To promote development, the peacebuilding effort would focus on restoring Government authority over the nation’s entire territory through a decentralized structure, with special attention on revitalizing economically-depressed areas and providing greater access to public services in highly-populated regions.
Political dialogue and a peacekeeping presence were indispensable to peacebuilding efforts, he said, pleading for United Nations forces to replace European Union Forces (EUFOR) in the country’s north-east, at least until the Central African Republic’s own armed forces were in a position to guarantee security. In that regard, he welcomed the transition from the Force multinationale de la CEMAC (FOMUC) to MICOPAX.
He also stressed the importance of a concerted effort by the international community and the United Nations system. The United Nations in the Central African Republic must speak with one voice and act in a coordinated fashion. He lauded the Secretary-General’s intention to issue a recommendation to set up an integrated United Nations office in the Central African Republic, and supported his recommendation to prolong BONUCA’s mandate for one year.
The meeting began at 11:45 a.m. and ended at 12:10 p.m.
When the Security Council met, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic and the activities of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in that country (document S/2008/733), which says that the overall political, security and socio-economic situation remains fragile, compounded by a weak economy, multifaceted social problems and impunity, related to deep security challenges, particularly in the northern and south-eastern parts of the country. One area of immediate and continuing concern is the ongoing culture of impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations by APRD rebel elements and Government forces.
The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the Government of the Central African Republic to convene the long-awaited inclusive political dialogue from 5 to 20 December 2008 and encourages the country's authorities to successfully complete that important initiative. Underlining the commitment of the United Nations to that process, the Secretary-General appeals to all national stakeholders, in particular the Government and the armed groups, to work together within the framework of the signed peace agreements and to address their differences by peaceful means for the greater interest of the people of the Central African Republic.
He further notes that the past six months have witnessed serious challenges for humanitarian workers, particularly due to activities of armed rebel groups, highway bandits and poachers, as well as Government security and defence forces, and appeals to all parties to give unhindered access to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the populations in need and to ensure adequate protection for humanitarian workers.
Noting the recent transfer of operational responsibilities of the subregional peace force in the Central African Republic from the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) to ECCAS, he also commends the subregional leaders, as well as the African Union and the European Union, for their important political and financial support to that force. He further appeals to them, as well as to other members of the international community, to continue to support MICOPAX to enable it to effectively discharge its mandate, in close cooperation and coordination with the United Nations.
The Secretary-General calls the recent release of the first public report on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic "a unique opportunity for the opening of a constructive dialogue between the Organization and the Central African authorities to address human rights challenges", and urges those authorities to seize this opportunity to strengthen the rule of law and promote good governance by ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and addressing the culture of impunity to eradicate it.
He underlines the conclusion of the recent inter-agency process, which demonstrated the need to build on the existing achievements in efforts to make United Nations assistance in promoting and consolidating peace in the country more coherent. To foster a more coordinated approach to United Nations work in the Central African Republic, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator will be at the core of the efforts to bring political and operational activities in the Central African Republic into greater harmony. He says he will present to the Council recommendations on an integrated approach that may further increase concerted efforts in that country.
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For information media • not an official record