SECURITY COUNCIL, CONCERNED BY RISING TENSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, SAYS LACK OF DIALOGUE, ECONOMIC CRISIS OBSTACLES TO RECONCILIATION

23 January 2001
SC/6995

SECURITY COUNCIL, CONCERNED BY RISING TENSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, SAYS LACK OF DIALOGUE, ECONOMIC CRISIS OBSTACLES TO RECONCILIATION

23/01/2001
Press ReleaseSC/6995

Security Council

4261st & 4262nd Meetings (AM & PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL, CONCERNED BY RISING TENSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC,

SAYS LACK OF DIALOGUE, ECONOMIC CRISIS OBSTACLES TO RECONCILIATION

Presidential Statement Commends Peace-building Support Office,

Calls on Member States to Fulfil Commitments Made at May 2000 Meeting

The Security Council this afternoon expressed its concern at the political and social tensions that had recently resurfaced in the Central African Republic, which threatened the national reconciliation process undertaken four years ago with the active support of the international community. 

In a statement read out by its President, Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore), the Council noted with concern the absence of dialogue between the Government and the opposition and was disturbed by the deterioration of the economic situation, which had been caused, in part, by repercussions from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the resulting fuel crisis. 

The Council called upon the Government to take concrete measures to implement economic reforms and to ease social tensions.  It stressed the priority need for the payment of salary arrears in the civil service and welcomed the recent announcement by the Government that it would take steps in that direction.  The Council also encouraged the Government to take all financial measures that were necessary to relaunch the demobilization and reintegration programme.

The Council reaffirmed that it was first up to the Central Africans to summon the necessary political will for national reconciliation.  The Council strongly encouraged the country’s Government to do everything in its power to strengthen democratic institutions and broaden the scope of national reconciliation.  The Council urged all political actors in the country to contribute each in their own way to the reduction of the existing tension between the Government and the opposition. 

The Council called upon Member States that had made pledges at the special meeting in New York in May 2000 to fulfil their commitments.  It also expressed its appreciation for the release by the World Bank of the second tranche of credit for the consolidation of public finances and welcomed the recent decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release additional funds.

Further, the Council commended the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) and the Representative of the Secretary-General for the efforts they had made to contribute to peace and

stability in the country.  It welcomed the mission to the region of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, to assess the impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic on the Central African Republic, in particular its humanitarian, economic, social and security implications.  

In a meeting held immediately prior to the Council adoption of the presidential statement, the Council was briefed on the situation by Cheikh Tidiane Sy, Representative of the Secretary-General and head of BONUCA.  He also heard statements from Frederick Lyons, Acting Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Mats Karlsson, Vice-President for External Affairs and United Nations Affairs of the World Bank; and the Minister for the Promotion of Civic Responsibility of the Central African Republic, Agba Otikpo Mezode.

Statements were also made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Mauritius, Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, and the representatives of France, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Mali, Colombia, China, Russian Federation, Ireland, Norway, Ukraine, United States, Tunisia and Singapore.  The Permanent Observer of the International Organization of la Francophonie also spoke.

The first meeting was held from 10:25 a.m. to 1:07 p.m.  The second meeting was called to order at 1:07 p.m. and adjourned at 1:14 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to discuss the situation in the Central African Republic. 

The Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2001/35) on the situation in the Central African Republic and on the activities of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office (BONUCA) in that country.  The report is submitted in response to a request by the Council to keep it regularly informed about developments concerning the political, economic, social and security situation in the country and the activities of the Office.  This is the second report of the Secretary-General; the first was submitted on 30 June 2000.

The Secretary-General states that the primary mission of BONUCA is, among others:  to support the Government's efforts to consolidate peace and national reconciliation; and to strengthen democratic institutions.  If necessary, the Office will also monitor the human rights situation and contribute to the strengthening of national capacity for the promotion and protection of human rights.  In addition, BONUCA will monitor the security situation in the country and assist with security-related reforms, and facilitate the mobilization of international political support and resources for national reconstruction and economic recovery.

According to the Secretary-General, since his last report the political situation in the Central African Republic has been dominated by considerable tension in the relationship between the ruling party and the opposition.  The Government has not engaged in a dialogue with the opposition.  The opposition, which tends to adopt a confrontational approach in its activities, is trying by every possible means to seize the power that it was unable to win through the ballot box.  That is one of the main reasons for the crisis currently gripping

the country, which must be viewed against a backdrop of social tension and a precarious economic and security situation.

Further, continues the Secretary-General, the antagonism between the ruling party and the opposition has deepened over the past few weeks.  A number of recent negative incidents and the lack of dialogue between the country's political stakeholders are serious obstacles to the sustainability of the democratic institutions established barely a year ago.

Addressing the human rights situation, the Secretary-General states that since his previous report the practice of summary and extrajudicial executions seems to have diminished.  The Office continued its efforts to publicize, through the press and radio, the fundamental principles of human rights, with the intention of reaching the various social and professional classes.  Yet, despite these efforts, another form of human rights violation has appeared in the Central African Republic -- "neighbourhood justice".  This type of popular justice has become commonplace, particularly in Bangui, where victims, in particular "witches" and armed robbers, are often beaten to death.  Several cases of this type of justice were recorded in July and August 2000 in Bangui and in the countryside. Perpetrators generally cite their lack of confidence in State justice to justify their actions.

It should also be noted that there are still concerns about the condition of prisoners, says the Secretary-General.  Since his previous report, representatives from the Office have visited detention centres in Bangui and in the interior of the country, meeting a total of 1,498 prisoners, of whom 10 per cent are women and children.  The prisoners have been herded into the jails of police stations and gendarmerie brigades, which are rife with contagious diseases.  Cases of death from malnutrition have been recorded, as have cases of torture.

The Secretary-General states that the living conditions of detainees in the Central African Republic are deplorable and below required international standards.  The authorities have requested assistance from the international community for the construction of prisons or the rehabilitation of the Bangui central prison, which was destroyed during the mutinies of 1996 and 1997.  So far, there has been no response, he adds.

Addressing the security and military situation, the Secretary-General notes that the former is relatively calm.  Since the murder, on 20 August 2000, of the Ambassador of Libya to the Central African Republic by a group of armed individuals, no further acts of a serious nature have been reported.  Incidents of armed robbery and illegal roadblocks, however, have been reported, especially in the countryside.  The military garrisons, whose recent deployment at Bouar, Bria and Zémio was made possible largely as a result of French military cooperation, are not yet fully operational, and the Government is, therefore, unable to effectively combat the phenomenon.

In addition, continues the Secretary-General, disarmament efforts have continued. To date, 95 per cent of the heavy weapons that have been in circulation since the mutinies of 1996 and 1997 have been recovered, compared with 65 per cent of light weapons.  While these results are encouraging, the overall situation is still cause for some concern, mainly because of the proliferation and illicit circulation of new weapons, most of which originate from conflict areas in countries neighbouring the Central African Republic.

The process of restructuring the defence and security forces is also continuing, says the Secretary-General.  But, due to the lack of financial resources and the delay by international partners in acting on the commitments made at the special donor meeting in New York, in May 2000, only limited progress has been made in the demobilization and reintegration programme.  The programme has since been redesigned and restructured as "support for retraining" and has been suspended until the necessary resources can be mobilized.

Regarding the economic situation, the Secretary-General states that because of the very negative impact of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Central African Republic, the latter's economic situation is extremely critical.  In fact, the economy as a whole never recovered from the destruction of the socio-economic infrastructure that took place during the mutinies of 1996 and 1997 and, even more damaging, the continuing fuel crisis.  The overall economic situation, already fragile, has worsened following the rupture in supplies of petroleum products.  The country's growth rate has fallen to 3.3 per cent, as opposed to the 5 per cent that had been forecast, and inflation has surged in the wake of sizeable increases in the prices of petroleum products.

The Secretary-General states that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused a large number of refugees, particularly women and children, to flee towards border towns and villages in the Central African Republic. Scattered among a dozen makeshift camps along the southern border of that country, refugees live in precarious conditions.

The Secretary-General states that, although the security situation in the region has been relatively calm for some time, porous boundaries and constant uncontrolled movements of refugees towards and from the conflict zone have raised fears of proliferation and illicit arms trafficking in the Central African Republic.

According to the Secretary-General, the Central African authorities believe that, as a result of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their country "runs the double risk of a weakened economy and destabilization".  The effects of the conflict are "negative, take many forms and are multi-sectoral".  It is clear that a solution to instability in the subregion depends on the restoration of peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, notes the Secretary-General.

In conclusion, the Secretary-General stresses that the situation in the Central African Republic is a source of great concern. On the political level, the lack of any dialogue between the Government and the opposition has not contributed to strengthening the country's young democratic institutions.  Prolonged civil service strikes have increased the risk of social upheaval. Moreover, the negative economy and social impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is compromising the progress made towards the consolidation of the fragile peace and stability in the country.

The Secretary-General states that the Government's expectations of the international community, in general, and the United Nations, in particular, are urgent and numerous.  But it is up to the Central Africans themselves to summon the political will and work towards national reconciliation.  It is his sincere hope that President Ange-Félix Patassé will soon take the necessary measures to lower the existing tension between his Government and the opposition.

The Secretary-General states that the special meeting held in New York in May 2000 has not produced the desired results.  He urges those governments that made pledges during the meeting to disburse the promised funds, so that the Government of the Central African Republic can meet the many challenges confronting it.  He is also gratified that the Bretton Woods institutions are showing flexibility in their dialogue with the authorities of the Central African Republic and have started providing the assistance the Government desperately needs. 

The international community has invested much in the return of peace to the Central African Republic, notes the Secretary-General.  He hopes that it does not relax its efforts now, lest the tangible results it has helped bring about be lost and the country relapse into civil strife.

Statements

CHEIKH TIDIANE SY, Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Peace-building Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA), said the political situation in the country was characterized by considerable tension between the party in power and the opposition.  Little communication or dialogue existed between the political actors.  President Patassé had not yet organized the meeting between the parties that he had promised in June 2000.  The cooling of the relations between the parties had been aggravated in December with the arrest and sentencing of more than 60 people –- four of them opposition members –- for participating in an unauthorized meeting.

The Secretary-General’s second report on the situation in the Central African Republic emphasized the gravity of the country’s social problems.  The economic situation was also very precarious.  The economy had not yet recovered from the destruction caused by the crisis in the country.  He noted, however, that there was reason to hope that recent World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiatives would help the Government address some of the issues.

Regarding the human rights situation, he noted that there had been fewer summary and extrajudiciary executions.  However, another form of rights violation had been seen, popular justice, in which the victims –- thieves or supposed witches -– were beaten to death.  The situation of prisoners also remained a source of concern.  

Regarding the security and military situation, the report indicated that the situation was calm in Bangui and in the interior of the country, he said.  Acts of urban banditry had, however, been noted.  The restructuring of the defence and security forces was continuing.

The situation in the country was cause for concern, he said.  Social and political tension and the negative effects of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo rendered the Central African Republic the “soft underbelly” of the subregion and seriously compromised efforts to reinforce peace and stability.  The Secretary-General urged the political actors, notably the Government, to assume the necessary political will to resolve the current crisis.

Because of the economic difficulties in the country, the Government had enormous expectations of the international community, and the United Nations in particular, he said.  Countries that had made financial commitments should disburse them.  He stressed the range of the challenges faced by BONUCA and said sustained attention by the international community was required.

FREDERICK LYONS, Acting Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative had highlighted the severe social, economic and financial difficulties arising from prolonged political tension and security crises in the country.  That had led the Government, with the support of the United Nations missions, the UNDP and other partners, to engage in a disarmament programme.  Within the framework of the peace agreements and a national plan to fight poverty, the Government had agreed in 1998 to a demobilization and disarmament programme, with financing by the UNDP of approximately $2 million. 

He said that an additional $7 million for demobilization and reintegration had been a continuation and consolidation of that earlier programme.  Hopefully, the programme would have a positive and direct impact on livelihoods and security. Technical conditions for the demobilization and reintegration programme were being established.  Those included the establishment of a computerized data bank and the formulation of legal instruments for demobilization.  To ensure the effectiveness of the programme, the Government must meet the prior obligation of settling outstanding civil service wages, including those of the 700 military personnel and others who were to be demobilized under the programme.  Timely contributions by the donor community was also critical. 

MATS KARLSSON, Vice-President for External Affairs and United Nations Affairs, World Bank, said the Bank was very concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic, not just because of the particular difficulties it had faced in the past five years, but also because it had been so affected by events elsewhere in Central Africa, including most obviously in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Bank was committed to supporting economic and social recovery and sustainable development in countries in transition through investment and development policy advice, he continued.  The Bank had a long history of involvement in national development programmes.  However, there had been interruptions in the Bank’s programme in recent years.  It needed to update its knowledge of policy areas important for economic growth and poverty reduction, but the path to strengthening the Bank’s programme appeared to be opening up.

The Bretton Woods institutions had supported the Government’s stabilization and reform efforts in a number of ways, he continued.  For example, last month the Bank’s Board partially waived a condition for the release of the second tranche of budget support under the Fiscal Consolidation Credit ($5 million).  In the six months ahead, the Bank would work closely with authorities to develop a more comprehensive poverty strategy, drawing on resources provided under the Policy Support Project approved last year ($8 million).  It would also help the Government to prepare the case for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.  It would, further, support the preparation of an urgent project to fight HIV/AIDS.

He stressed that a sound economy was essential for underpinning peace- building efforts.  The pooling of the efforts of the entire United Nations community, with the Bank and the IMF focusing on the social and economic dimensions, had never been more vital than now.

ANIL KUMARSINGH GAYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mauritius, said the situation in the country remained a matter of serious concern for the Council and the region, in particular.  The political tension between the ruling party and the opposition was unabated.  The process of national reconciliation seemed to never get under way.  The absence of dialogue between the Government and the opposition had exacerbated the socio-economic crisis faced by the country.  The conflicting relations between the ruling party and the opposition and the boycott of meetings of the Parliament by the opposition constituted a serious setback to the democratic process, which was, itself, relatively new.

He said that immense efforts should be undertaken by the political leaders and major stakeholders to consolidate the democratic institutions that had been established.  It was, therefore, imperative that the political leadership started, without delay, a process of dialogue with a view to establishing peace and stability in the country.  At the same time, the democratic process depended upon the existence of institutions that were capable of ensuring that the fundamentals of a modern State were observed.  Further, the non-payment of salaries to the military and civil servants had resulted in social unrest and the impoverishment of the population.  As long as State employees were not paid their salaries, there could be no reliable public administration.

The situation could not be allowed to prevail, he said.  Despite the great economic potential afforded by unexploited natural resources, the country continued to face a fragile social, political and economic situation.  Despite several attempts by the international community to help the country out of its crises, the outcome was -– to say the least -– “disappointing”.  The request of the Government for debt relief under the enhanced initiative for HIPC should be approved as early as possible.  It was also important to view the situation in the country in the broader context of what was taking place elsewhere on the African continent.

At the turn of the century, he said, several African countries were still plagued by conflicts as a result of –- “and here we have to be honest with ourselves” -– the absence of good governance, non-respect for democratic institutions, persistent violations of human rights and lack of transparency on all fronts.  Instability and insecurity were the greatest impediments for development and progress in Africa.  When the challenges facing the content were so daunting and when the negative impact of globalization had yet to be assessed, it was opportune for Africa to look at the larger picture and concentrate on a path of development that avoided conflicts, tension, war, and which enhanced people-centred development strategies. 

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said that despite clear progress, including disarmament and the restructuring of security forces, the rupture of political dialogue, repeated strikes and economic difficulties were issues of concern.  The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo explained part of the trouble, but not all of it.  France, like other Council members, would be eager to hear a briefing on the mission undertaken to the country by Amara Essy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

He stressed the need to continue aid from the international community.  In that regard, he praised recent World Bank and IMF initiatives.  He also underlined the importance of bilateral aid.  International aid, however, was not all.  He emphasized that the citizens of the country were masters of their own destiny.  Among the political actors who must take part in the national reconciliation, the Central African authorities had a particular responsibility.  It was up to them to take the necessary measures to ease current tensions.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said he particularly appreciated the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and his team on the ground for their tireless efforts to establish and maintain peace, institution-building, and guide the international community in those directions.  When the Council considered the situation in the country last July, his delegation totally supported the various important roles BONUCA had been playing.  Since then, there had been some progress towards peace and stability, but a number of concerns still prevailed on the ground.

First, he said, there was no national reconciliation.  The Government and the opposition should enter into a dialogue to consolidate peace and national reconciliation.  The Council should encourage the Government to initiate such a dialogue and it should urge the Special Representative to use his good office to focus on that aspect.  While he was pleased to see a diminishing of summary executions, he was equally concerned at the “neighbourhood justice” that was alarmingly taking place throughout the country.  The Secretary-General, in his report, had described a worrisome human rights situation in various dimensions.  That situation required the urgent attention of the Special Representative.

Of particular concern was the long-time unpaid arrears of the civil servants and the resulting discontent, he went on.  The country’s current economic situation would likely have a negative impact on the social situation.  The Secretary-General had underlined that the resentment might intensify.  In that regard, he appreciated the Government’s recent announcement to pay part of the arrears to the civil servants, and strongly urged the authorities to continue their efforts in that direction.

Turning to the role of the international community, he said it had been expected that bilateral and multilateral donors and the multilateral financial institutions would support the Government.  Although the World Bank and the IMF had recently released some financial resources, the bulk of the commitments were unfulfilled.  His country would support the Secretary-General’s call to donors to assist the Central African Republic. 

ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) said his delegation agreed with the position expressed by the Foreign Minister of Mauritius.  He was concerned at the situation in the country, which was dismal and getting worse.  The efforts of the international community and the United Nations must not be wasted, he stressed.  Dialogue between the parties was essential.  It was also essential that the Government carry out reforms that would insure a lasting solution to the country’s economic and social problems.

He welcomed progress in the security situation and shared concerns about the impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He hoped that governments would make progress in the speedy release of funds for the country.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the Secretary-General’s report clearly attested to the critical need for concerted and focused attention to the root of causes of conflict in the Central African Republic.  Reports had demonstrated just how tenuous the situation was, and she joined in calling for continued dialogue.  The Council could not sit idly by as the situation deteriorated.  The successful outcome of the post-conflict situation would be a model for other former war-torn countries.

She appreciated the tremendous strides made by BONUCA in fulfilling its mandate, despite its limited resources, she said.  It was worrying to learn, however, that there had been little progress in critical programmes, such as disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, owing to the lack of necessary resources. 

She welcomed the steps already taken by the World Bank.  External debt remained a serious challenge for the country, and the initiatives taken by the World Bank and the IMF were steps in the right direction.  She noted the negative effects of the flow of refugees across the porous borders between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.  Only a comprehensive approach to the conflicts in the region would effectively stem the spillover effects of conflicts in the region.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said that progress was being made towards national reconciliation and the strengthening of peace and national unity.  Particularly welcome had been the progress made in disarmament and the respect of human rights by law enforcement officers, among others.  Regrettably, the demobilization process had proceeded slowly.  Assistance in that regard should be provided on an ongoing basis. 

He said he was pleased by the recent statement by the Government about settling some of the salary arrears and releasing political prisoners. That should lessen tensions in the country and contribute to a frank dialogue between all involved players.  Settling the problem of refugees and displaced persons in the country and the region would promote regional stability.  He was very concerned, however, about the recent social and political tensions, which had not helped the process of peace and reconciliation. 

The human rights situation was also cause for concern, he said.  In that context, he supported the Secretary-General’s idea that he continue to stress to the authorities the need to respect the rights of all citizens, including those accused or charged.  The precarious economic situation, where there had been a disruption of fuel supplies, was also of concern.  He welcomed indications by the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and the IMF to assist the country in resolving its financial ills.  No international support, however, could replace the will of the people themselves to solve their own problems.

ANDRÉS FRANCO (Colombia) said the report described a reality that caused his delegation concern.  Today’s debate was a good opportunity to analyse the part played by the United Nations in post-conflict peace-building.  Social and political tension threatened the steps taken towards improving democratic institutions.  Absence of dialogue also imperilled efforts.  He was also concerned about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He looked forward to hearing from Mr. Essy on how the negative effects of that conflict could be reduced.

Responsibility for building the peacekeeping operations rested with the people of the Central African Republic, he said.  The contribution of the international community was, however, indispensable.  There must be a high degree of responsibility on the part of external actors.  He was concerned to note the scant financial resources and the delays in honouring commitments to the country.  He encouraged President Patassé’s Government to continue working towards establishing dialogue.

WANG DONGHUA (China) said that, at present, the political, economic and social situation was of great concern.  He had noticed the absence of dialogue and the refusal of the opposition to cooperate with the Government.  Hostilities had increased in recent weeks, seriously impeding national reconciliation.  Hopefully, all parties would summon their political will, adopt specific measures, and carry out the necessary dialogue in order to ease tensions and create favourable conditions for peace.

He said that the United Nations should further facilitate dialogue between the Government and the opposition.  The deterioration of the social and economic situation would, in turn, cast a negative impact on political reconciliation and increase social unrest.  He welcomed the position of the Bretton Woods institutions in providing financial support.  He hoped those institutions and other donors would increase their financial support.  He called upon all donors who had pledged assistance at the last special meeting on the subject in May to implement their commitments, in order to tide over the Central African Republic past the current difficulties. 

Debt relief should be realized sooner, he went on.  At the last forum on the situation, his Government had decided to write off a certain amount of the debt owed to China.  Hopefully, that would improve its economic situation.  The global community should consider long-term measures to improve the situation.  The Government of the Central African Republic, for its part, had undertaken specific actions to re-establish national defence and security forces, but he remained concerned about the attacks on BONUCA convoys.  The Government should adopt measures to punish those criminal acts and guarantee their safety.  An assessment of the situation on the ground by a special envoy of the Secretary-General had his support. 

VLADIMIR SERGEEV (Russian Federation) said his delegation always supported peace-building efforts in the Central African Republic and greatly appreciated the work of BONUCA.  Like other members, he was disturbed by the tension between the Government and the opposition.  The opposition was still feeding on hopes that it could seize power, even after having been defeated at the ballot box.  The absence of dialogue could have negative consequences for the peace-building process.  The impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was also cause for concern. 

The people of the Central African Republic must demonstrate political will, in the interest of achieving stability, he said.  The international community and the specialized agencies must do all they could to help.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) welcomed the progress the Government of the Central African Republic had made, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report, particularly towards disarmament and the restructuring of the defence and security forces.  At the same time, he noted, the report presented a very depressing picture of the economic and political situation inside the country.  The consolidation of democratic institutions and the promotion of national reconciliation were prerequisites to political, economic and social development.

The economic situation in the country was not helped by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.  Without the restoration of peace in the Democratic Republic, there could be no lasting solution to the instability in the region.  The international community had already invested heavily in peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic.  However, the necessary return on that investment could only come through the restoration of political stability, which, in turn, must come from the people and institutions of the Central African Republic.

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said the situation required coordination and mobilization of resources by the international community, as well as a clear commitment by the national authorities towards dialogue and reconciliation in order to create a climate conducive to development.  A number of different measures were needed to help institution-building, strengthen respect for human rights, and achieve disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  Humanitarian efforts would assist the growing number of refugees in the areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Despite the commendable efforts and achievements of BONUCA, he said, the current situation in the Central African Republic was reason for concern.  The negative economic developments and the social unrest had increased the possibility of instability and conflict, and threatened reconstruction efforts.  Those negative developments must be reversed.  It was, therefore, important that the Council give a clear signal to the Government on the need to summon the necessary political will and work towards national reconciliation.

While the disarmament achievements described in the Secretary-General’s report were encouraging, the influx of new weapons threatened to cancel out those positive results, he said.  The recent influx of illegal weapons was closely connected to the conflicts in neighbouring countries.  That clearly indicated the need for a regional approach.  Without a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic was likely to face a continued influx of refugees and problems with illegal arms trafficking.

VALERI KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said that today’s discussions on the challenges of the post-conflict peace-building in the Central African Republic logically extended the recent deliberations of the Council on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.  After the successful completion of the transition from a United Nations peacekeeping operation to a post-conflict peace-building presence in the Central African Republic, the country focused on a wide range of post-conflict challenges related to the consolidation of peace and stability.

He said that the Government had made significant progress in various spheres, in particular the disarmament and restructuring of the defence and security forces.  Also welcome were the positive developments in the human rights situation.  In that context, he commended the constructive role played by BONUCA in promoting awareness of human rights issues.  Much remained to be done in that regard, and the assistance of the international community was of crucial importance.

The regional context of the situation in the country remained a source of serious concern, he went on.  The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had produced a large number of refugees and an oil crisis in the Central African Republic, still had severe implications on the humanitarian, economic, social and security situations in the country.  The economic sector remained the most fragile area to which long-term solutions should be found.

At the same time, he said, the primary role in strengthening the spirit of national reconciliation and the main responsibility for peace and stability in the country was with the parties themselves.  It was, therefore, important that the parties engage in a constructive political dialogue towards national reconciliation.  The presidential statement about to be adopted would send a strong signal of support and encouragement to the Government and people of the Central African Republic.

MARK MINTON (United States) said that the overarching means towards recovery in the Central African Republic was good governance, in which the country itself must take the leading role. While recognizing the many challenges facing countries which, after years of conflict, were struggling to create a new way of life, he could not fail to underscore the responsibility that must be assumed by the Government of the Central African Republic in solving the country’s political and economic hardships.  The actions taken by President Patassé in the areas of disarmament and restructuring of defence and security forces were encouraging.  Hopefully, work in those important areas would continue. 

His country was deeply concerned by the absence of political dialogue, he said.  He urged President Patassé to take the necessary steps to resume talks between his Government and members of opposition parties.  The opposition should also be willing to work towards a peaceful solution to the existing stand-off.  Both sides must refrain from inflammatory accusations and actions, and approach negotiations in the spirit of consensus-building and national reconciliation.  Failure to do so doomed the people of the country to remain in the stranglehold of the past, with no hope of moving forward.

The Government authorities, striving to implement economic reforms, should stay on the path proposed by the Bretton Woods institutions, he said.  Controlling expenditures, safeguarding the use of taxes and other revenues to alleviate poverty, eliminating corruption, and strictly adhering to sound economic planning were vital to the development of a strong and stable Central African Republic. Although the citizens themselves bore the primary responsibility for their own political and economic reform, no country existed in a vacuum.  The Central African Republic was directly affected by events in neighbouring States. 

The expressed commitment to combat the HIV/AIDS scourge in the country was most welcome, he said.  Also of particular concern was the large number of refugees on the southern border of the Central African Republic and their potentially destabilizing impact on the economic and political situation in the country.  In that regard, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to send Amara Essy, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, to the region to assess the impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Central African Republic.  Both the global community and the countries of the region must assist the country in its efforts to become a self-reliant and democratic State.  Regional actors should reopen the Congo and Ubangi Rivers, in order to ease the disruption of river traffic and alleviate the fuel crises that threatened the fragile economy.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said it was clear that the consequences of the 1996 crisis continued to be omnipresent, and that the challenges faced by the Government were far from being resolved, despite great efforts.  In that regard, he noted that the relations between the party in power and that of the opposition continued to deteriorate and called for the establishment of a dialogue between them.  The work of BONUCA in that area would be key.

He noted the disturbing socio-economic situation in the country and welcomed international initiatives –- particularly those of the World Bank and the IMF.  He added that, despite some incidents, the security and military situation in the Republic was encouraging.  The inability of the Government, because of lack of funds, to effect the programme of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was, however, troubling.  He saluted the efforts of BONUCA in helping consolidate peacekeeping operations in the country and deplored recent violence.

AGBA OTIKPO MEZODE, Minister for the Promotion of Civic Responsibility of the Central African Republic, said he wished to transmit the congratulations of his President, who sincerely hoped that the Council would continue to work for world peace.  The Government was also grateful to the international community and organizations for their invaluable contributions towards peace.  The authorities had remained faithful to the option of national reconciliation and the consolidation of democracy, despite the unfortunate disruption and the tremendous risks involved in building a fledgling democracy.  It was, therefore, urgent to place before the Council a correct interpretation of the prevailing situation.

He said he wished to pay tribute to the objective and comprehensive nature of the report of the United Nations Special Representative in Bangui.  His conclusions had summarized all expectations of the people and Government.  Indeed, since the second half of last year, demonstrations inspired by extremist political parties had been a way to grasp at power for those that had been unable to obtain it through free and fair elections.  Those groups were provoking events and turning them to their advantage.  In his country, that was called “political animation”.

There should be no political crisis in the Central African Republic, he said.  Government institutions had already been set in place and most were operating smoothly and soundly.  The prevailing crisis of the last six months was a social one, the roots of which went back to 1991-1992 when the fight for multi-party politics erupted.  It was a time of strikes, followed by a presidential campaign divided by excessive “tribalization”.  Those who had witnessed the mutinies had borne witness to the intensity of the violence provoked by that  tribalization.  Following years of mutinies and a scattering of authority, civil service arrears had emerged, with no strategies or emergency plans in place to finance them.

The new regime had inherited 13 months of civil servant salary arrears, many of which had been paid, he added.  Still, five months of arrears remained, added to 12 months of prior arrears.  The payments for 1999 had not been entirely made, and until May 2000 the Government had been paying the salary backlog at the end of each month.  Then in May, the fuel crisis emerged and civil servants had to live for two or three months without pay.

Creating a distinct social and economic substructure had become even more urgent with the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its perverse effects, he continued.  The future precariousness of the situation, as a result of the fuel crisis and provocation by extremist elements, also added to foreign indebtedness.  National efforts to achieve concrete and realistic solutions were constantly being jeopardized by the irresponsible activities of certain corrupt elements, which, since independence, had fostered tendencies towards lawlessness.

If managing power was not carried out in keeping with electoral rules, any temptation could occur, which would undermine the process, he said.  It was urgent to consolidate democratic achievements, flowing from the indispensable national expectations of a stabilized State reborn from the ashes of mutinies.  The country must generate its own resources and satisfy the immense needs of its population.  Consolidating the fledgling democracy could not occur by adhering to an unrealistic timetable.  Free and fair elections must be organized.  Any divergence would distort the democratic ideal. 

Continuing, he said that upheaval along any lines must be avoided.  He was also convinced of the need for the rule of law.  Despite reports to the contrary, the human rights issue was of more concern to the authorities than ever.  Concerning the lack of dialogue between the Government and the opposition, the Government institutions had expressed a willingness to talk.  The President was annoyed by any characterization of unwillingness on the part of the Government.

RIDHA BOUABID, Permanent Observer for the International Organization of la Francophonie, was concerned over the situation in the Central African Republic, which was a member of his organization.  The economic and social crisis derived mainly from fuel problems and salary arrears.  There was also a tense political situation, due to the lack of dialogue between the Government and the opposition.  His organization wanted to assert its solidarity with the Central African Republic. 

He hoped that Mr. Essy’s recommendations, once he had returned from his trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, would make the international community aware of the need to take urgent steps to minimize the impact of the conflict on other countries such as the Central African Republic.  He encouraged all efforts that the international community could make to resolve problems posed by the numerous refugees fleeing the conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He also called for effective action to assure shipping lanes.  Actions by the World Bank and the IMF were essential.

He stressed the role of the Central Africans themselves in assuring the return of peace, security and stability to their country.  He reiterated la Francophonie’s dedication to lending support to national and international efforts to achieving a more stable situation.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said he hoped that all had benefited from the comments made today.  An integrated approach to peace-building was essential and, as the representative of France had said, the Council could play a key role in that area.  The United Nations had been engaged in the Central African Republic for a long time.  There was now a fear that the good work done by United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) would be lost due to recent developments.  He noted that speakers had repeatedly stressed the need to promote national reconciliation.

He said that several hurdles must be cleared: full and prompt implementation of the Bangui Agreements and a national reconciliation pact; the acquisition of sufficient funds in support of peace-building efforts; the need to address the root causes of the problems currently being faced; and the need to resolve the continuing unrest of neighbouring countries, especially in Democratic Republic of the Congo. In overcoming those hurdles a clear finishing line must be established.

Mr. SY, Representative of the Secretary-General and head of BONUCA, took the floor for a second time to underscore that the country was in a critical phase and rife with tension.  Even if solutions were found to the domestic problems of the country, those might not be enough to guarantee or “nail down” peace and stability regionally.  That was why a global approach must be considered. 

Regarding the country’s internal problems, he said, “the clouds were lifting”.  There had been progress in terms of promoting human rights and ensuring respect for them.  Also, partners were cognizant of the scope of the problem and willing to demonstrate flexibility.  “Hope was in order”, he said.  He would leave the meeting with a degree of optimism based, in part, on the sharp understanding shown by Council members.  He had also been struck by the rigorous manner in which they had understood the Secretary-General’s report, as well as the richness of their contributions and the accuracy of their analysis.  

Following that statement, Mr. MAHBUBANI (Singapore), Council President, adjourned the meeting.  He immediately opened another in which he read out the following statement, which will be issued as document S/PRST/2001/2:

“The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General dated 11 January 2001 (S/2001/35), submitted in accordance with the statement by the President of the Council of 10 February 2000 (S/PRST/2000/5).

“The Security Council commends the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) and the Representative of the Secretary-General for the efforts they have constantly made to contribute to peace and stability in the Central African Republic. In this connection, the Council welcomes the additional progress made in certain areas since the previous report of the Secretary-General of 29 June 2000 (S/2000/639), particularly in the area of disarmament and the restructuring of the security and defence forces, and as regards respect for human rights by the police.

“The Security Council welcomes the mission to the region of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, to assess the impact of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Central African Republic and the Republic of the Congo, in particular its humanitarian, economic, social and security implications. The Council is looking forward to discussing the findings of that mission in the very near future.

“The Security Council expresses its concern at the political and social tensions which have recently resurfaced in the Central African Republic, which threaten the national reconciliation process undertaken four years ago with the active support of the international community. The Council notes with concern the absence of dialogue between the Government and the opposition. The Council is also disturbed by the deterioration of the economic situation, partly because of the repercussions of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the resulting fuel crisis.

“The Security Council welcomes the contributions already received and calls upon bilateral and multilateral donors to provide full support to the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic. The Council appreciates the release by the World Bank of the second tranche of credit for the consolidation of public finances and welcomes the recent decision by the International Monetary Fund to release additional funds. The Council calls upon Member States which made pledges at the special meeting in New York co-chaired by the Secretariat, Germany and the United Nations Development Programme in May 2000, to fulfil their commitments. The Council also stresses the importance of international assistance to refugees and displaced persons in the Central African Republic and in the other countries of the region in order to contribute to regional stability.

“The Security Council reaffirms that it is first up to the Central Africans to summon the necessary political will for national reconciliation. The Council strongly encourages the Government of the Central African Republic to do everything in its power to strengthen democratic institutions and broaden the scope of national reconciliation. The Council urges all political actors in the Central African Republic to contribute each in their own way to the reduction of the existing tension between the Government and the Opposition. In this respect, while it welcomes the release, on 8 January 2001, of 62 persons who had been arrested during the prohibited demonstration of 19 December 2000, the Council nevertheless notes with concern certain constraints on the peaceful public assembly of opposition and labour groups.

“The Security Council calls upon the Government of the Central African Republic to take concrete measures to implement economic reforms and to ease social tensions. The Council stresses the priority need for the payment of salary arrears in the civil service and welcomes the recent announcement by the Government of the Central African Republic that it will take steps in this direction. The Council also encourages the Government of the Central African Republic to take all the financial measures that are necessary to relaunch the demobilization and reintegration programme.

“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep it regularly informed about the activities of BONUCA, the situation in the Central African Republic, and in particular the progress made in the political, economic and social reforms, and to submit a report by 30 June 2001, in accordance with the statement of the President of the Council dated 10 February 2000.”

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For information media. Not an official record.