|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6438th Meeting (AM)
Special Representative in Central African Republic, Briefing Security Council,
Holds out Good Prospects for Successful January Elections
Chair of Country-Specific Configuration Highlights
Security, Governance, Rule of Law as Priorities for Peacebuilding Commission
Prospects were good for the success of elections planned for 23 January in the Central African Republic despite many challenges to peace consolidation, Sahle-Work Zewde, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, told the Security Council today.
“These elections constitute another window of opportunity for the people of the Central African Republic to participate in the democratic process and to further consolidate the country’s democratic foundations and mark the start of a new chapter of stability and greater economic prosperity for all,” she said as she presented the Secretary-General’s latest report.
Ms. Zewde, who also heads the United Nations Integrated Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), was joined in briefing the Council by Jan Grauls ( Belgium) in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configuration for the Central African Republic, and Fernand Poukré-Kono, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Welcoming the technical and financial support provided by international partners to the Independent Electoral Commission, Ms. Zewde said that, despite hitches in preparing the elections, solutions had been found due to the Government’s having demonstrated a high degree of commitment to working with the Commission and the opposition. A deadlock had been broken on 15 November, when President François Bozizé had convened a meeting of national stakeholders and international partners. The meeting had settled an issue relating to nomination dates, the question of allowing two more opposition candidates to run for the presidency, and nominations for the National Assembly to be submitted by opposition parties. Three days ago, the Election Commission had published the names of 833 candidates running for Assembly seats, she said.
Expressing hope that the electoral process would continue in a calm and positive atmosphere, she said BINUCA and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) would provide support for revising the Code of Conduct for the elections and for getting all candidates and relevant institutions to agree to it. The recent key appointment of the Minister for Territorial Administration and Decentralization in charge of electoral matters boded well, she said.
She expressed gratitude to donors who had provided support for the elections and to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for having ably managed the basket fund for the polls. She encouraged donors to make good on outstanding pledges and provide the additional funds required to cover the Electoral Commission’s operational costs at the present critical stage.
On other matters, she said the verification of ex-combatants in the north-west of the country was complete, but for the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration to move forward, the parties to the political dialogue must uphold all their commitments. Additionally, conditions in the volatile north-east must improve and a national reintegration party must be developed, she stressed, saying she looked forward to working with the Government on the latter urgent step.
Security in the capital and the south-west of the country was satisfactory thanks to the presence of the national Armed Forces, she said, but the east remained exposed to continuing banditry, criminal armed groups, incursions by foreign armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and attacks by politico-military groups that were not part of the peace process. “The Central African Republic cannot be allowed to become a haven for criminality and armed groups in the subregion,” she said, recalling that on 24 November, the Convention des patriots pour la justice et la paix (CPJP), a political group outside the peace process, had attacked Birao less than 10 days after the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). The town had been looted and its population displaced before being re-secured.
The Government needed international assistance to address the lack of security, particularly in the east, by strengthening its Armed Forces and security-sector reform, she emphasized, noting that it had made important efforts to extend its authority and provide services throughout the country. An important part of that effort was ensuring that the Follow-up Committee for Inclusive Political Dialogue continued to make progress in implementing the recommendations agreed by national stakeholders.
Mr. Grauls said he was pleased that the integrated Strategic Framework developed by BINUCA for 2011 incorporated the priorities identified by the Peacebuilding Commission, thus furthering the convergence and coherence between the Commission’s work and that of the United Nations system on the ground in support of Government priorities. Coherence could be improved further by establishing an operational focal point within BINUCA to act as an intermediary with the Commission on a daily basis, and by the Commission’s participation in elaborating the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the years 2012-2016.
Meanwhile, the Peacebuilding Commission had played a significant role in bridging the $7.5 million gap in the electoral budget and stood ready to further support the planned elections, he said. In addition, its attention had been focused on the long-delayed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. With several armed groups in the north-east yet to join the peace process, and the Government yet to fully develop a reintegration strategy, a clear message from the Security Council to recalcitrant rebel groups and the Government concerning disarmament, demobilization and reintegration would be of benefit, he stressed.
Recalling a high-level New York event co-organized in September by the Central African Republic configuration and the World Bank, he said it had showcased the country’s progress over the past three years, generated attention for the considerable remaining challenges and served as a stepping stone for a planned donors’ conference, to be held after the elections, to mobilize resources for other priorities, including security-sector reform, which remained stalled. The list of existing security-sector reform projects should be updated and prioritized for submission to potential donors, he said, welcoming in that regard the establishment of a Security Institutions Unit within BINUCA.
Good governance and the rule of law was another priority, he said, adding that the configuration was working with UNDP to complement and refine its efforts in that area. The configuration would also continue to monitor gender issues, child protection and the human rights of internally displaced persons with particular attention. Next year would see the launch of the development hubs project piloted by the European Union with the aim of re-establishing a governmental presence in nine secondary centres throughout the country, starting with the provision of basic services. The project would require substantially more than the initial €40 million already allocated, he added.
With regard to the departure of MINURCAT from north-eastern Central African Republic, he reiterated his plea for international support for an enhance presence of MICOPAX, the peace-consolidation mission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), to allow time for the requested reinforcement of national security forces. The recent rebel attack on Birao illustrated that the risk of instability remained real and that regional spill-over must be avoided at all costs. A strong message from the Security Council in that regard would also be most welcome, he said in conclusion.
Mr. Poukré-Kono ( Central African Republic) said his country was on course for free, fair and transparent elections, with some outstanding issues but reason prevailing. However, security problems and the armed groups remaining outside the peace process posed severe difficulties. As soon as MINURCAT had withdrawn, Birao had been attacked, because the national security forces had been far too thinly deployed in the north-east. Ahead of the Mission’s withdrawal, international assistance and regional cooperation had been requested in the interest of bolstering those forces, he said, warning that, unless the situation improved, armed groups allied with criminal gangs could take further destabilizing actions. It was critical that the LRA and other armed groups be dealt with as part of a regional strategy, and that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as security-sector reform efforts, receive more support.
Conflict had led to severe economic problems, as well as a decrease in services and institutional decline, but the country was making progress in getting back on its feet, as recognized in the recent high-level meeting, he said. As the Central African Republic celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year, it was most important that the international community listen to its people before making demands. Recognizing the commitment of BINUCA staff, he expressed full support for the recommendation to extend the Office’s mandate, while urging it to adapt to the new situation in country.
He said priorities should include training and strengthening national capacity in all areas, so that the BINUCA’s eventual withdrawal would not leave a vacuum. As part of that concern, Central Africans should be recruited as international civil servants, he said, adding that the Office should be supplied with supplementary resources so it could expand, including in the north-east. The Central African Republic would continue to cooperate with all partners, he said in conclusion. Stressing that the country was not a hopeless case, he said it had made great efforts to help its people and institutions, and called for further international aid to support those efforts.
The meeting began at 11:19 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic and on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country (document S/2010/584), which recommends that the mandate of that Office (BINUCA) be extended for another year to enable it to continue facilitating the process of restoring stability. Established last 1 January to succeed the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA), BINUCA’s mandate is due to expire on 31 December.
According to the report, BINUCA will continue, in the coming year, to implement its mandate within an integrated framework and in close cooperation with national authorities, as well as the country’s partners, with a particular focus on the reconciliation process, including the completion of the electoral process. BINUCA is also helping national authorities implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme in addition to supporting efforts to restore State authority throughout the country, reform the security sector and promote the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Welcoming the progress made in the ongoing integration of the United Nations country team and BINUCA, the Secretary-General says the strategic alignment of United Nations operations in the humanitarian, development and political spheres serves to reinforce the activities of all actors and to enable more effective service delivery in common efforts to consolidate peace.
Turning to the situation in the Central African Republic, the report says much more needs to be done to increase the capacity of the national army – the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA) — to tackle the challenges posed by armed groups, which move freely in the country and across its porous borders, creating a state of relative instability. He urges bilateral partners to respond to a Government appeal for assistance to the Armed Forces.
Concerned about the disappearance of political leaders, the Secretary-General renews his call for the authorities to clarify the circumstances of such incidents and to ensure the safety of political and military leaders who have joined the peace process. He also calls for action against a “culture of impunity” that remains a central feature of human rights violations in the Central African Republic. He stresses the need to fight corruption, which constitutes a leading obstacle to socio-economic development.
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