We Stand Behind Sexual Abuse Victims, He Says, as Members Hear from Chair of Peacebuilding Commission’s Country Configuration
Following peaceful elections bearing the promise of ushering stability and democracy into the Central African Republic, the Government must capitalize on the positive momentum by instituting key economic, judicial and security reforms, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council this morning.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also pledged full support for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse at the hands of United Nations peacekeepers in the country, urging swift investigations and strict punishment for the perpetrators.
“Expectations are high,” Mr. Ladsous said in speaking of the elections while briefing the Council on the situation in the Central African Republic. “The first 100 days will be decisive in this new Government.” Faustin Archange Touadera, a former Prime Minister, had been sworn in as President on 30 March, setting the stage for the first elected Government in three years for a poverty-stricken country just emerging from a devastating civil war, he added.
The new Administration’s focus must be lasting peace for the benefit of all Central Africans, rapid disarmament and reintegration of former combatants and the swift return of displaced people and refugees, he said. The Government would also need to roll out key improvements in the defence sector, stimulate economic growth and establish its authority all over the country through careful administrative oversight.
He went on to emphasize that the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) must do its part to support those priorities. The Secretary-General had recommended a technical rollover of MINUSCA’s mandate, set to expire on 30 April, to allow the Secretariat and the Central African authorities to discuss that mandate moving forward. The United Nations would work closely with international partners to establish a broad framework of mutual accountability, he said. “We have a window of opportunity to help the Central African Republic and we must not waste it.”
He said that since taking office, President Touadera had moved quickly to form a new Government, appointing a leaner Cabinet of 23 ministers, among them four women and four Muslims, but no representative of any armed group. In legislative elections held on 31 March, key political figures, including three former presidential candidates, had won parliamentary seats. Transitional institutions would remain in place until the legislative process had been completed and the court had validated the final election results later this month.
During a recent trip to attend President Touadera’s inauguration, he recalled, the new leader had publicly vowed to respect the new Constitution, including the two-term limit on presidential mandates, and to work towards national unity — an encouraging sign. He said he had also witnessed important progress towards national healing during visits to Muslim and Christian communities in the Boeing neighbourhood of Bangui, the capital. Local reconciliation efforts by communities and victims of the sectarian strife that had plagued the country after the 2013 fall of former President François Bozizé had been exemplary and could form the basis for long-term unity.
Those positive developments, however, had been overshadowed by more allegations of misconduct and sexual abuse by MINUSCA and international forces, some of which were “extremely shocking”, he noted. To address the issue, MINUSCA had established a transparent approach focused on victims, while Jane Holl Lute, the recently appointed Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse, had travelled to meet with the Mission. Together with Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, he and Ms. Holl Lute had engaged with MINUSCA’s uniformed personnel in Bangui and New York, he said, adding that they had called for swift investigations and strict punishment for anyone found guilty.
“We stand firmly behind the victims that showed tremendous courage in coming forward, and continue to work to ensure they receive the assistance and justice they deserve,” he continued, stressing that troop- and police-contributing countries must also bolster efforts to address such unacceptable conduct. “We have to put a stop to the appalling acts of a few that undermine the integrity and dedicated work of many.”
Speaking after that briefing, Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said the country was at a critical juncture, and the international community’s support for peacebuilding was more important than ever. Welcoming the proposed technical rollover of MINUSCA, he said it would allow enough time for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to carry out its strategic review of the situation and engage fully with the new authorities.
He said he would visit the Central African Republic in the coming weeks and meet with international and regional stakeholders to assess how the Peacebuilding Commission could best support their efforts. The configuration’s actions must be tailored to the new situation and suitable for the country’s long-term political stability and economic prosperity, he added. The configuration should respond promptly to the challenges facing the new authorities in meeting high expectations of improved living standards, with a focus on public services.
Better coordination with the authorities and the main donors was the key to ensuring implementation of the national development plan, he said, as were efforts to identify economic sectors that were crucial for economic growth and recovery, and to encourage international investment.
He noted, however, that the humanitarian situation remained worrisome, particularly concerning displaced people and refugees. Aid organizations must continue to intervene and avoid a fragmented approach, he added.
At the outset of the meeting, the Council’s attention was drawn to two documents relating to the discussion: the Secretary-General’s report on the situation from December to mid-March (document S/2016/305) and the report on the activities of Operation Sangaris, the French forces providing operational support to MINUSCA, from mid-November to mid-March (document S/2016/342).
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:39 a.m.