|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6575th Meeting (AM)
Implosion in Central African Republic Would Have ‘Cataclysmic’ Effect on Volatile
Region, Warns Special Representative in Briefing to Security Council
Peacebuilding Commission Configuration Chair,
Permanent Representative Report on Elections, Reconciliation Efforts
At the intersection of critical conflict zones and impacted by insecurity in neighbouring Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic was at a crossroads, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
“An implosion in Central African Republic will have a cataclysmic impact throughout the region, negating investments made in securing the neighbouring countries,” warned Margaret Vogt, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Central African Republic (BINUCA), as she presented the Secretary-General’s most recent report on recent developments in the country.
While cautioning against the risks posed by the worst-case scenario, Ms. Vogt said much had been accomplished over the last two years since the establishment of BINUCA in January 2010. A number of governance institutions had been created and key legislation had been introduced. Freedom of the press had been expanded, despite recent setbacks involving the arrest of two journalists, she said, adding that the overall security situation remained calm, though unstable, especially outside Bangui, the capital.
She emphasized that the country still faced serious challenges, including extreme poverty, weak national institutions, corruption, a high rate of violent crime perpetrated by armed movements and brigands, human rights violations and impunity. In the current context, she said, the two most immediate challenges were the political dispensation following the legislative and presidential elections, the implementation of peace agreements with rebel groups, and the sustainable disarmament and reintegration of former combatants as part of overall security-sector reform.
The reporting period had been dominated by the presidential and legislative elections, she said, noting that international and national observers had characterized the polls as inclusive and peaceful despite a number of irregularities. The Constitutional Court had overturned results in nine districts, ordering re-runs in 13 others, to be held in approximately two months’ time.
She said the composition of the new Government, headed by Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadera, was a positive step towards establishing an inclusive Cabinet. Pledging to address immediate political challenges, the Government had announced the creation of a new professional and independent body to manage future elections and revise the Electoral Code. However, the ruling party’s domination of Parliament and other institutions, resulting from the opposition’s boycott of the electoral process, constituted a considerable challenge to stability and national reconciliation, she cautioned. BINUCA would work closely with regional and international partners to support the Government in providing political space and engaging the opposition outside Parliament on development-related issues.
Highlighting the implementation of peace agreements signed with armed movement and rebel groups in May, she said the Government had announced its intention to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate all combatants by year’s end, and concrete steps had already been taken to that end. On 12 June, the Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix (CPJP) had joined the Libreville Peace Process, signing a ceasefire with the Government. The next day, the leader of the Chadian Front Populaire pour le Redressement (FPR) had signed a communiqué with the Government of Chad to start negotiations on the rebels laying down arms and returning to their country.
She went on to note that, despite the launch of a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process on 25 June, during which 340 fighters of the Armée Populaire pour la restauration de la république et la démocratie (APRD) had been disarmed, President François Bozizéhad expressed frustration at the slow pace of disarmament and appealed for assistance with both the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security-sector reform processes. That support remained a major priority for BINUCA, she stressed. “It is imperative that the international community does everything possible to support the DDR and SSR process and to provide the necessary resources for its timely completion.”
Ms. Vogt reported that by signing an agreement on joint border patrols with Chadian and Sudanese security forces, the Government had taken an important step towards securing north-eastern Vakaga Province. Adequate international support would be needed for the joint patrols, which would partially address a security vacuum in rebel-occupied areas, she said, pointing out that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to kill, take hostages and otherwise impede normal daily life in the south-east.
With humanitarian workers coming under increasing attack by armed criminals, security must be improved in the north-east to help address the deteriorating humanitarian situation, she emphasized. “We must not allow the criminality in certain parts of neighbouring Darfur to become the model for the Central African Republic.” Efforts to bolster security must be complemented by the promotion of good governance and the rule of law as the Government extended its authority and services into the affected regions.
Turning to the protection of women and children, more must be done to prevent sexual exploitation and promote children’s and women’s rights, she said, adding that she intended to establish a protection unit within BINUCA to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers. There was a need to promote a culture of respect for human rights through the Central African Republic, and concrete steps must also be taken to tackle corruption and the pervasive impunity affecting law-enforcement institutions, she said.
While the Government had recently granted BINUCA access to prisons and detention centres, she said, it was expected soon to establish an independent human rights commission, and needed further support to strengthen the judicial system with a view to ending “mob justice”. She encouraged traditional and new partners to provide financial support for the programmes contained in the Government’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for the period through 2015, which had been presented at the June Partners’ Round Table in Brussels.
Jan Grauls ( Belgium), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Central African Republic Configuration, also briefed the Council, saying that its focus over the past six months had been on mobilizing donors for the electoral process. A $7 million gap in funding had been closed as a result. The Commission had convened the Partners’ Round Table to increase awareness of the second phase of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper drawn up by the Government and World Bank representatives. Attending the Brussels event had been representatives of the Government, the African Union, and civil society, among others, he noted. “For a ‘forgotten country’ like the Central African Republic, this level of participation was unprecedented.”
Looking ahead, he said security-sector reform would be one of the main priorities in the coming year, and the Commission would make the launching of relevant programmes a priority, while also focusing on other urgent issues, such as the transparent management of natural resources, which were vital in generating funds to meet the Government’s priorities.
He drew special attention to the troubling and “truly dramatic” situation of women and children, recalling that, during his last visit to Bangui, he had called for the creation of a mechanism to monitor their situation. He had also urged the Special Representatives dealing, respectively, with children and armed conflict, and sexual violence in armed conflict, to visit the region and prepare reports on their findings.
Charles-Armel Doubane (Central African Republic), taking the floor next, said a series of encouraging events had taken place since the elections, including the signing of an agreement with the last rebel group remaining outside the Libreville Agreement, and the tripartite meeting of the Central African Republic, Sudanese and Chadian Governments. At the same time, the Government was aware that consolidating democratic gains required more forward progress, carried out with the assistance of the United Nations, and especially the Peacebuilding Commission.
While pledging that the Central African Republic would meet its commitments and implement the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, he said the country must be viewed through the lens of its geographic position at the crossroads of rebel activity. It must remain constantly aware of the volatile movements and violent activities of the LRA in the region, he stressed.
Turning to other regional issues, he said his country was hopefully awaiting the birth of a new country, South Sudan, in its neighbourhood within the next 48 hours. The Central African Republic hoped its new neighbour would join in the fight against the LRA and other such groups that operated across many international borders in the region.
Finally, he acknowledged that some were questioning whether his country had the means — or even the will — to press ahead with its reforms and development objectives. “Most certainly, the Central African Republic is not a hopeless case, with limited means; it is fighting to stand tall, to build the rule of law,” he declared, adding that the Government was working assiduously to be a “good father” to its citizens, who only wished to live in peace.
The briefing began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 10:51 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record