|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6345th Meeting (PM)
Peace Process in Central African Republic Hinges on Disarming, Demobilizing,
Reintegrating Former Combatants, timely Elections, Security Council Hears
The peace process in the Central African Republic had reached a critical stage, with progress hinged on the successful holding of elections and the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of some 8,000 former combatants, both of which had so far met with delay, the Security Council heard today.
In her briefing to the Council, Sahle-Work Zewde, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the new United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), said the Independent Electoral Commission had now announced 24 October and 19 December as the dates for the first and second rounds of the presidential and parliamentary elections respectively, rather than in April or May, as was originally hoped.
As explained in the latest report of the Secretary-General, opposition groups had viewed the earlier election dates — as decreed by President François Bozizé — as premature, citing fragile security conditions. Contributing to their concern was the perception that the Independent Electoral Commission was too weak to organize free, fair and credible elections within the constitutionally mandated time frame. In January, opposition groups had called for the resignation of the President and other members of the Commission over what they believed were shortcomings in the discharge of their mandates, the report explained.
With the announcement of the new dates, said Ms. Zewde, international support was important to avoid a return to violence in that country, whose overall political, security and socio-economic situation remained “precarious” and “fraught with challenges and pitfalls”. The Electoral Commission had determined that $20.8 million was needed to hold the elections, but when all donor contributions had been accounted for, there was still a gap of $7.5 million.
Of that gap, the Commission urgently needed $3.5 million to conduct an electoral census, she said, which must be conducted between 14 to 28 July if it was to keep to the proposed electoral timetable. An electoral needs assessments mission had been undertaken by the United Nations Department of Political Affairs in October 2009, and the Organization would continue to provide technical advice and support throughout the process.
In the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, she cited numerous challenges, but also highlighted progress in the north-west and centre of the country where a process had been launched to verify a list of former combatants. In the south-east, however, attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on civilians continued to aggravate the security situation, displacing people from their homes.
She said her Office was working closely with four United Nations peacekeeping missions in the region to monitor the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army, but acknowledged the need for a more coordinated regional approach. In that context, she welcomed the passage of legislation by the United States Congress on the issue, as well as the recent inter-mission meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, as important contributions to devising a regional strategy.
Abuses committed against refugees and displaced persons, particularly rape and other forms of gender-based violence against women and children, were part of the prevailing insecurity, she said. To that, she added other human rights abuses such as prolonged pretrial detention of individuals held without charges, unlawful arrest and detention, and ill treatment of detainees. While the main focus of the political process was on elections and demilitarization efforts, it was important not to overlook the need to implement other recommendations of the inclusive political dialogue of 2008.
She said BINUCA continued to carry out the 12 priority projects under the $10 million Peacebuilding Fund allocation, and that a meeting had been held in May to arrive at a common United Nations vision to guide peacebuilding activities, involving her Office and the United Nations Country Team in the Central African Republic, to be finalized by September.
Reporting on his mission to Bangui from 9 to 12 June, in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configuration on the Central African Republic, was Jan Grauls of Belgium. Noting the new dates proposed by the Independent Electoral Commission for the elections, he said a presidential decree to validate those dates was important to facilitate his own efforts to help fill the $7.5 million gap in the electoral budget.
The risk of relapse into conflict was real, he said, referring to the planned departure of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) towards the end of the year. He said the Security Council should increase pressure on all parties, especially recalcitrant armed groups, to engage in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.
In his meetings with the Government, he said he had discussed the possibility of reinserting a certain number of ex-combatants into the national security forces, notably in functions such as rangers or the gendarmerie, but also into the army itself. The Minister in charge of defence was not opposed, but had indicated that that should be done according to certain quotas and criteria.
As for funding, Mr. Grauls had proposed to expand a joint European Union-World Bank reintegration strategy that could serve as a basis for the Government to contribute its own planned and ongoing activities. He also asked the Government to identify the most urgent priorities in security sector reform, on which the Peacebuilding Commission could focus its resource-mobilization efforts, once elections had been held.
The representative of the Central African Republic noted that both national and international actors agreed that security was necessary for free, fair and credible elections, but explained that, in a country prone to internal upheavals, the presence of “foreign rebels and bandits” had not made the situation easier.
The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration needed boosting, to cover far-flung regions, he said, while also appealing for more help to bridge the funding gap, without precondition, for holding elections. He praised the initiative for the United Nations entities to speak with a single voice, which would ease the process by which the Government could seek assistance.
The meeting began at 3:35 pm and ended at 4:10 pm.
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