|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6780th Meeting* (AM)
Central African Republic at Critical Juncture, World Community Must Help It Build
on Momentum of Recent Political, Security Progress, Security Council Told
Office Head Says Peace Dynamic, Dialogue Offer Real Chance for Stabilization;
Country’s Representative Says Report Reflects Uncertainty, ‘But above All, Hope’
The Central African Republic was at a critical juncture and it was essential for the international community to help it build on the momentum of recent progress on the political front, as well as in security and the reintegration of ex-combatants, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
“The dynamic of peace between the Government and the politico-military groups and the dialogue called by the President, offer a real chance for the stabilization of this beautiful country,” said Margaret Vogt, who is also the head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the country, known as BINUCA.
“The [Central African Republic] populations sincerely hope that they can count on the international community’s continued assistance and generosity to help bring about lasting peace”, she added, highlighting the importance of the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUCA (see Background), Ms. Vogt said that several challenges confronted the general environment of progress in the Central African Republic at the beginning of the year, with the arrest of four leaders of politico-military groups on charges of plans to re-launch the rebellion and the suspension of consultations between the Government and political parties on electoral matters.
Fortunately, the case against the arrested leaders was submitted to the legal process and they were granted provisional freedom. One of them was able to resume his critical role in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. However, consensus had yet to be reached on the critical electoral reform process and the structure of a permanent electoral management body. On 15 May, the President had invited the leader of the opposition to open a constructive dialogue, although they had a number of prerequisites. As opposition parties and civil society had requested United Nations expertise and support as active observers, the Policy Mediation Division of the Department of Political Affairs was on standby to assist.
Disarmament was continuing to be pursued by the Government, she said, with plans and budgets presented and Government allocation of $440,000 for the effort, augmented by bilateral contributions and United Nations funds and allowing the process to proceed in the north central region. Consolidation of security, she said, was supported by the activation of the Chad, Sudan and Central African Republic Tripartite Force, leading to the stabilization of the north, enabling the return of displaced populations, as well as international access. She pointed to the importance of launching disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations in the north-east as soon as possible as a complementary effort, urging international support. Additional funds and expertise were also needed to complete work, already ongoing, on an important national security sector reform strategy.
Tensions in the north-east, she said, persisted, between ethnic groups, between pastoralists and other communities and between local communities and Muslims of Chadian extraction, with many suspected of harbouring fleeing fighters of the Front Populaire pour le Redressement (FPR). In that regard, she announced that the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) planned to launch social cohesion projects, especially among women, in areas that had been hit by such conflict. She said BINUCA also continued to build capacity of the National Council for Mediation, receiving special funding for work at the local level.
Two foreign armed groups continued to pose a serious threat to the peace process, she said. In addition to the FPR, which had been dislodged from its strongholds by a joint Central African Republic-Chad military strike, she said there had been a spike in attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). There was new momentum in national and international efforts to address the LRA challenge. BINUCA, complementing other United Nations efforts, was working to help the Central African Republic develop a better warning system for attacks of the LRA, as well as working with partners on a strategy to encourage the defection of LRA fighters and repatriation to their home countries, as well as pursuing other efforts.
A falloff of aid from the international community had presented budgetary difficulties for the Government, she said — although payments to civil servants were maintained — and in consequence it was holding discussions with the International Monetary Fund on the matter, committing to adjust petroleum prices to safeguard budgeted domestic revenues. The lack of basic health infrastructure and the effects of widespread displacement continued to threaten the well-being of many Central Africans, with food insecurity, HIV/AIDS, lack of education access and other humanitarian ills rampant. The Consolidated Appeal requesting $134 million, however, remained “grossly underfunded”. She appealed to the Council to sensitize the international community to the “urgent” needs.
Finally, she commented on the upsurge of human rights violations noted in the report, particularly those perpetrated by the security and defence forces, including the Presidential Guards and encompassing a range of detention outside of due process. BINUCA had constantly brought those irregularities to the attention of national authorities, but much remained to be done to prevent the practices.
Following that briefing, Charles-Armel Doubane, representative of the Central African Republic, expressed high appreciation for the work of Ms. Vogt and affirmed the accuracy of the majority of the contents of the Secretary-General’s report, and its reflection of the “fear, anguish, uncertainty, joy, but above all, the hope, of the country”. He pledged that the Government would take its recommendations into account.
He confirmed the report’s overall assessment of the political situation, emphasizing concern over representation in the parliament and the consequent reaching out of the President for national dialogue. He also affirmed the importance of a consensus on the electoral process. There was indeed reason for optimism on security, although two foreign armies continued to sow terror. For that reason, the security forces continued to pursue the FPR, and many partners were working to put a final end to the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Describing the increased economic hardships of vulnerable populations, he said that the Government had been providing assistance and negotiating for development funds from the Bretton Woods institutions, in order to try to meet the Millennium Development Goals, particularly on health. The Government was also providing resources for DDR, along with partners whom he thanked, and those efforts also required security sector reform, which was being pursued with assistance.
Turning to human rights, he acknowledged that there were certain rogue forces that had committed violence against the local populations, but the Government was working hard with the United Nations and other partners to promote human rights and the rule of law, and to overcome shortcomings in the justice system.
He expressed his thanks for the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund for its assistance in many areas, and assured the Council that the Government was sparing no effort in bringing about peace and stability in the country, in coordination with partners, to whom he was very grateful. His country’s central position merited further attention, so that it could help consolidate peace in the whole African continent.
The meeting began at 11 a.m. and ended at 11:38 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on the Central African Republic, as previously agreed.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic and on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in that country (document S/2012/374), which reports on development in the political, security, socioeconomic, humanitarian, human rights, child protection and gender spheres since 28 November 2011, and the related activities of the Office, known as BINUCA.
Regarding political developments in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General says that the Government’s initiative to launch an inclusive political dialogue is a major breakthrough, since the Government and opposition parties halted formal contact in late 2010. As initial consultations ended before consensus was reached on the proposed electoral reforms, he urges the Government, the political parties and civil society to resume discussions on the issue with a renewed constructive spirit. He adds that the United Nations remains available to support regular dialogue among all national stakeholders.
Although the overall security situation in the country has improved, he says, it remains fragile and the arrest of four politico-military leaders increased tensions and renewed concerns about respect for the rule of law. The timely resolution of the legal issues affecting the arrested leaders, who were eventually released, should help to enhance the smooth conduct of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration operations.
Most of the country has become accessible, he says, and populations have begun returning to the north-east. There is increased hope that security will be restored throughout the country, but the continued threat to civilian populations posed by foreign armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Front Populaire pour le Redressement (FPR) remains cause for serious concern. While he welcomes security collaboration between the Central African Republic, Chad and Sudan, including joint military action against the FPR, he calls for the pursuit of political solutions as well. He also urges international partners to assist the Central African authorities in offering a robust national response to the LRA threat, in cooperation with regional efforts of the African Union.
The improved security situation, he says, provides an opportunity to implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, which has a funding shortfall of some $20 million. He thanked countries and partners that pledged assistance to the country in the recent conference and urges them to fulfil their promises as soon as possible. Welcoming the finalization of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in the north-west, he encourages the Government to continue to build on the relative peace in most parts of the country to extend its political presence, as well as social and development assistance.
He says, however, that human rights violations committed across the country by defence and security forces are of serious concern and underscored the need for security reform. He also urges tangible steps to address arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, in part through dialogue with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Welcoming the promulgation of the Principles of Penitentiary Administration Act and ratification of the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he expresses concern, however, about continued grave violations against children by armed groups and self-defence groups. He urges all parties to cease the violations immediately and to implement action plans without delay.
He expresses further concern over lack of resources for the implementation of joint projects among United Nations entities, as well as over the slow pace of implementation of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, calling on the international community to join forces to support the efforts of the Government.
He reports that, during the reporting period, BINUCA continued to support national efforts towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the country, working to strengthen the capacity of the National Council for Mediation to manage conflicts at the national level, and to encourage dispute resolution at the local level. With support from BINUCA, the National Council has begun to establish local mediation councils. BINUCA is also working with the National Council to put in place appropriate early warning and mediation mechanisms to address increased tension between local communities and Muslim communities, many of Chadian descent, following the military actions against the FPR.
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* The 6779th Meeting was closed.