The “fragile” political and security situation in the Central African Republic was slowly improving following the holding of the Bangui National Forum in May, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today, warning that support was needed from the international community to sustain that positive momentum.
“The Central African Republic is at a crossroads,” said Babacar Gaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), as he briefed the 15-member body this morning. With presidential elections upcoming, next steps would be difficult as they required strong leadership, reconciliation on the part of the population and support on the part of donors.
In many towns around the country, civilians still suffered from human rights violations at the hands of armed groups, and attacks had been targeted at MINUSCA peacekeepers, he said. In the central sector, factions of the ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka forces continued to clash, contributing to threats against civilians. In addition, in the south, the Lord’s Resistance Army continued to operate, extorting food and other means for survival.
“Security is gradually improving in Bangui, where signs of normal life lend a sense of confidence and gradual returns from the airport [internally displaced persons] camp to other areas of the city indicate a positive, but fragile, trend,” he said. Nevertheless, the humanitarian situation remained a concern, with more than 2.7 million people requiring assistance, some 450,000 refugees and close to 400,000 citizens displaced inside the country. Only 30 per cent of the humanitarian appeal had been funded, he said, urging Member States to respond positively to that request.
At the political level, he said, the main success of the Bangui Forum was the spirit of dialogue, inclusivity and the sense that the good of the country had prevailed. Against that backdrop, the recent vote of the National Transition Council to deprive refugees of their right to vote represented an alarming step backward and a reminder that more effort should be focused on reconciliation.
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had decided to consider positively an extension of the Central African Republic’s political transition until the end of 2015. Authorities had also announced the electoral calendar, including a constitutional referendum on 4 October, a first round of presidential elections on 18 October, and a second round on 22 October. Although the electoral budget had been reduced by 18 per cent, an $11 million funding gap remained. He called on donors to make additional commitments to that critical element of the peace process.
Abderrazzak Laassel (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the President of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the current period was critical for the country’s future. All interlocutors had expressed their desire to “move on” and were aware of the opportunity afforded to them by international support.
“It is time to silence the guns forever,” he said, and intensify efforts to build a strong, stable State, with institutions capable of meeting people’s basic needs. In that context, he welcomed the launch of the electoral process and redeployment of State authority. The Bangui Forum also had been a crucial step in the political transition and he urged all active forces to show “absolute” commitment towards reconciliation and peace.
As the country prepared to vote in a constitutional referendum and in national elections, he said, all political actors and civil society must ensure that deadlines were met in a free, transparent and inclusive manner, as well as in a secure environment. Indeed, those conditions were a sine qua non for credibility and legitimacy, and all political actors should respect the Transitional Charter in that regard.
Going forward, he said it was time to identify ways to support the new authorities in a country where half the population still depended on international aid. Following the transition, the configuration was committed to supporting the new national authorities in implementing a peace strategy in the medium and long term. Before that, it was essential that preliminary steps were completed. In New York, the President of the configuration had begun an awareness campaign, mainly about the deficit and budget for the elections, for which he said nearly $10 million was needed.
More broadly, he said the recovery of the judiciary system and establishment of the Special Criminal Court were priorities. Following a 27 May meeting with the Minister of Justice, it had been decided to establish a reference group on the rule of law, which would inform all interested delegations on preparations for the establishment of the Special Criminal Court. Thanking countries and regional leaders for their support, he particularly appreciated the efforts of Chad, which was hosting more than 400,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. Mobilization of ECCAS was crucial in that regard.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:25 a.m.