Security in Central African Republic improves, but situation remains fragile – UN envoy

August - November 2019

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Security in Central African Republic improves, but situation remains fragile – UN envoy

Le Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général pour la République centrafricaine, Babacar Gaye (à gauche) avec des anciens combattants. Photo: MINUSCA
Special Representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA Babacar Gaye (left) encourages ex-combatants to join the road to peace in the Central African Republic (CAR). Photo: MINUSCA

Political progress combined with the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in nearly 40 localities have contributed to the improvement of the overall security situation in Central African Republic (CAR), which nonetheless remains precarious, the top UN envoy in the country told the Security Council today.

“The current improvement of the situation on the ground has allowed internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return and the economic activity to recover,” said Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA.

Mr. Gaye noted that many parts of CAR are still targeted by armed groups. “MINUSCA often reports harassment, racketeering, arbitrary detention and serious violations of human rights such as inhuman treatments in cases of witchcraft accusations,” he stated.

In the western part of the country, a recent increase of violent incidents on the main road between the capital, Bangui, and Cameroon has been of concern, said Mr. Gaye, noting that since May, three peacekeepers were injured in the area, and on 18 July, gunmen opened fire on a World Food Programme vehicle escorted by MINUSCA, killing a driver.

In the centre of the country, clashes between the former Séléka and anti-Balaka groups continue to pose threats for the local populations, while in eastern CAR, the ex-Séléka continue to have a significant military presence. In addition, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to operate in the south-eastern part of the country.

“MINUSCA is establishing three temporary operating bases in this area to further limit the LRA’s ability to operate,” the Special Representative said.

“Security is gradually improving in Bangui, where signs of normal life lend a sense of confidence and gradual returns from the airport IDP camp to other areas of the city indicate a positive, but fragile, trend,” he went on.

Despite the Mission’s efforts, the humanitarian situation remains a significant concern, he acknowledged, with more than 2.7 million people in need of assistance, some 450,000 refugees, and close to 400,000 displaced persons inside the country.

“However, only 30 per cent of the humanitarian appeal has been funded. Against this background, I urge Member States to sustain the positive developments in the country by responding to the humanitarian appeal.”

At the political level, the envoy continued, the main success of the recently held Bangui Forum is the “spirit of dialogue, inclusivity, and the sense that the good of the country eventually prevail.” He welcomed the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s support of $10 million that will be allocated to priorities identified by the Forum.

Against this backdrop, the recent vote of the National Transition Council to deprive the refugees from their right to vote represents an alarming step back and a reminder that more effort should be focused on reconciliation, he emphasized.

After the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) decided to consider positively an extension of the CAR political transition until the end of 2015, the CAR authorities announced the following electoral calendar: a constitutional referendum on 4 October, the first round of presidential and legislative elections on 18 October, and a second round on 22 November.

In the meantime, 330,000 voters have registered, primarily in Bangui, and the process is getting underway in the rest of the country. Restoration of State authority and the electoral process are being supported by MINUSCA through the provision of transport, training and administrative kits.

Noting a remaining $11 million funding gap to close the electoral budget, Mr. Gaye called on international donors to make additional commitments to this “critical element” of the peace process. He made a similar appeal to support the Special Criminal Court that was established by the transitional authorities to investigate serious crimes committed since 1 January 2003.

Despite progress towards voluntary disarmament of the ex-Séléka in Bangui, MINUSCA has yet to disarm the combatants throughout the country. “Indeed, most of the signatories would like to respect their commitment as per the agreement, but recent political developments have raised doubts, in particular among the ex-Séléka,” he warned.

In the meantime, MINUSCA is working closely with the transitional authorities to move the process forward in order to establish a situation conducive to “calm and transparent elections,” the envoy stated.