Killings Must End, Says National Representative, Urging Dialogue with Armed Groups
Violence in the Central African Republic — including attacks on minority groups and peacekeepers — harkened back to the darkest days of that country’s past, but the United Nations peacekeeping mission there must nevertheless stay the course so as to consolidate progress towards peace, its chief told the Security Council today.
Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said harsh criticism of the Mission within the country reflected frustration over the Government’s lack of capacity, as well as persistent — largely self-inflicted — insecurity characterized by each side expecting MINUSCA to fight their perceived enemies.
Nevertheless, MINUSCA’s resolve was stronger than ever, and as a result, the Central African Republic was on a path to incremental peace, he declared. “We are now deeply inside a critical phase of mandate implementation and MINUSCA must stay the course to consolidate progress towards peace, even as we must recognize the magnitude of the adversity we face today.”
He recalled a recent meeting of the National Consultative and Follow-up Committee and the African Peace and Reconciliation Initiative in Bangui, saying there had also been contacts between the Government and the African Union, and ongoing efforts by the Community of Sant’Egidio. All stakeholders should seize opportunities to discuss — in good faith with the legitimate national authorities — steps towards sustainable peace, he emphasized.
On the humanitarian situation, he warned that it could take a turn for the worse if authorities failed to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons. Calling for an immediate halt to violence and the killing of innocent civilians, he said MINUSCA would continue to project a robust posture towards armed groups, although innovative approaches would be needed to ensure medium-term stability.
Pointing to a meeting of the Consultative Follow-up Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, in which all 14 armed groups participated, he said it was incumbent on parties to genuinely embrace the peace process. With rule-of-law implementation at a critical stage, and the international community having shown unprecedented solidarity, it was up to Central Africans themselves to achieve stability and shared prosperity, he said.
The Council also heard from Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, who briefed on the report of a joint mapping project conducted by MINUSCA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report documented serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Central Africa Republic between January 2003 and December 2015, he said, adding that it detailed 620 incidents, most attributed to the Séléka/ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka armed groups, and to the Central African Republic’s defence and security forces. “This long list and patterns of past violations and abuses is unfortunately resuming today,” he said, emphasizing that it was time to send an unequivocal message to perpetrators that their actions were being documented and that they would be held accountable.
Also briefing was Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, who described the Central African Republic as a priority for his organization. Since the 2016 election, the Community had centred its efforts on enhancing dialogue among various groups, including by hosting, in Rome, consultations among representatives of armed groups.
The representative of the Central African Republic said that, despite the bolstering of MINUSCA’s presence, armed groups had infested the entire country. The killings must end, she said, urging frank dialogue to address all issues of concern and agree upon a path forward. Urging support for regional efforts, she said an African-led effort must forge the way forward. Concerned that certain Member States had indicated a wish to remove financing for quick-impact projects, she stressed that “time is of the essence” in avoiding a complete collapse of the Central African Republic.
Vincenzo Amendola, Italy’s Under-Secretary of State for International and Foreign Affairs, said the fragile and worsening security environment revealed that the political process was insufficient to stop the fighting. He called on the authorities and all armed groups to address the root causes of the conflict, pressing the international community to help the Government.
Representatives of Uruguay, Russian Federation and Bolivia also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:31 a.m. and ended at 11:38 a.m.
PARFAIT ONANGA-ANYANGA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), introducing the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2017/473), said the intensity of premeditated attacks on ethnic and religious minorities recalled the darkest episodes of the country’s past. Equally troubling and revolting was the systematic aggression against peacekeepers. The situation in Bangassou was extremely precarious, while developments in Ouaka and Mbomou prefectures were complex. In the capital Bangui, meanwhile, the security situation was relatively calm, with the Joint Task Force for the area reinforcing its positions and conducting numerous shows of force, and MINUSCA engaging community leaders.
He said harsh criticism of MINUSCA within the country reflected frustration over the State’s lack of capacity and impatience over persistent and largely self-inflicted insecurity, adding that each side expected the Mission to fight its perceived enemy. However, MINUSCA’s resolve was stronger than ever and, as a result, the Central African Republic was on a path to incremental peace. “We are now deeply inside a critical phase of mandate implementation and MINUSCA must stay the course to consolidate progress towards peace, even as we must recognize the magnitude of the adversity we face today,” he said. All peace efforts must be energized. Recalling a recent meeting in Bangui of the National Consultative and Follow-up Committee, the African Peace and Reconciliation Initiative, as well as encouraging contacts between the Government and the African Union and other parties, and ongoing work by the Community of Sant’Egidio, he said all stakeholders should seize opportunities to discuss — in good faith with legitimate national authorities — steps to achieve sustainable peace. Violence and the killing of innocent civilians must cease immediately.
Going forward, MINUSCA would continue to project a robust posture towards armed groups, he said, emphasizing that innovative approaches would be needed to ensure medium-term stability. Noting the convening of the Consultative Follow-up Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, in which all 14 armed groups participated, he said it was incumbent on parties to genuinely embrace the peace process. The joint Human Rights Mapping Report by MINUSCA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), launched on 30 May, included critical yet realistic proposals to advance transitional justice. With the implementation of the rule of law at a critical stage, and the international community having shown unprecedented solidarity, it was up to Central Africans themselves to achieve stability and shared prosperity.
He expressed deep concern that the humanitarian situation could worsen if authorities did not facilitate the return of displaced people and refugees. All international partners must honour their pledges and provide MINSUCA with sufficient resources to achieve its mandate, he said, adding that he would continue to lead the Mission in pushing the limits of what peacekeeping could achieve. While MINUSCA would position itself to protect civilians and deter violence, there could be no military solution to the crisis. All efforts must therefore be put into supporting a mediated political solution.
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, speaking via video conference from Washington, D.C., briefed the Council on the report of the mapping project documenting serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in the Central Africa Republic between January 2003 and December 2015. It detailed 620 incidents, including the burning of entire villages, gang rapes, extrajudicial killings, deaths following torture or ill-treatment in detention, serious violence against people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or perceived support for armed groups, recruitment of children by armed groups, and attacks on humanitarian actors and peacekeepers.
He said the vast majority of incidents were attributed to the Séléka/ex-Séléka and the anti-Balaka, as well as the Central African defence and security forces. “This long list and patterns of past violations and abuses is unfortunately resuming today,” he said, adding that it was time to send an unequivocal message to perpetrators that their actions were being documented and that they would be held accountable. The report included recommendations to inform the prosecutorial strategy of the Special Criminal Court, he said, explaining that, given the vast legacy of past human rights abuses, judicial mechanisms would obviously not be the only way to administer justice.
The report also featured guidance for developing a comprehensive approach to transitional justice that would help identify appropriate mechanisms for truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, he said. In addition, it highlighted essential preconditions that must be met before transitional justice mechanisms could function, including a secure environment and measures to protect victims and witnesses. Recalling a recent visit to the overcrowded Ngaragba prison in Bangui, he said more prisons must be built and run in a more humane manner, including by providing adequate food. More efforts were also needed to build the capacity and support the sustainable deployment of police, justice and corrections authorities, particularly in regions most affected by the conflict.
MARCO IMPAGLIAZZO, President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, said the Central African Republic was a priority country for his organization. In 2014, Sant’Edigio had worked to promote dialogue among religious communities, including awareness-raising to assist the political process. Since the 2016 election, efforts had centred on enhancing dialogue among various groups, notably through the hosting of representatives of 14 armed groups in Rome for consultations aimed at backing the work of the Government. Direct dialogue had proven effective, he said, emphasizing the Community’s commitment to the Central African Republic.
VICENZO AMENDOLA, Under-Secretary of State for International and Foreign Affairs of Italy, expressed deep concern about the fragile — and worsening — security environment, which revealed that the political process was not advancing and was insufficient to stop the fighting. He called on authorities and all armed groups to bolster efforts to address the conflict’s root causes. The international community must help the Government, he said, welcoming the Secretary-General’s plan and the work of his Special Representative, and expressing hope that pledges made at the recent Brussels conference would be honoured. The European Union had supported the Mission’s work and provided assistance to security sector reform, among other efforts.
CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) expressed deep concern over threats and incidents against MINUSCA personnel, adding that attacks on peacekeepers could constitute war crimes for which perpetrators must be held accountable. She urged all armed groups to engage in dialogue and to express their concerns peacefully. It was meanwhile vital for the international community to support the Government’s peace and stability efforts. Welcoming implementation of MINUSCA’s action plan on sexual exploitation and abuse, she acknowledged a drop in reported incidents, but nonetheless emphasized that more work must be done.
PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) called Bangui “a lone island of security” in a country where “blue helmets” were attempting to put out the fires of conflict and the armed forces existed on paper only. He underscored the need to act in a balanced manner on human rights while assisting the security sector. MINUSCA’s mission was to stabilize the Central African Republic, but peacekeepers could not remain forever, he said, emphasizing the need for reforms. The creation of a special criminal court would not be a panacea for addressing impunity, he said, and the potential for strengthened regional involvement had not yet been exhausted.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that the only response to attacks on civilians and MINUSCA personnel was a sustained and ongoing effort by the parties to resolve the conflict. Bolivia called on all armed groups to lay down their weapons, and urged the international community to support the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process. Welcoming regional initiatives, he emphasized the importance of African ownership and African solutions to African problems.
AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) said recent instability had led to massive displacement of the population. Armed groups were a grave concern and partners must support the Mission’s actions on the ground. Despite MINUSCA’s bolstered presence, the situation was a concern as armed groups had infested the entire country. MINUSCA convoys were being targeted, she said, paying tribute to peacekeepers who had been killed or injured in their quest to support peace. Attacks on civilians were unacceptable. She commended the African Union Peace and Security Council effort, pointing out that increases in troop and police numbers must address threats posed by armed groups.
Expressing support for a political solution, she said the Government continued to foster dialogue with armed groups. The killings must end and she urged that a frank dialogue address all issues of concern and a path forward be agreed upon. Regional efforts must be supported, with an African-led effort forging a way forward. Too many crimes had been committed and relatives of victims were awaiting justice as they looked to the Government and the international community to end impunity. Quick-impact projects, including training centres and income-generating initiatives, were essential to prevent the recruitment or re-recruitment of youth by armed groups, she said, expressing concern that certain Member States had indicated their wish to remove financing from such efforts. Time was of the essence in order to avoid a complete collapse in the Central African Republic, she said, thanking States that had made or increased pledges to support national recovery and peacebuilding plans.