Widespread violence and a lack of humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic had put half the population at risk, but Government efforts to restore State authority and protect civilians were laying the groundwork for peace, the United Nations top official in the country told the Security Council today.
“The picture in the Central African Republic is not as hopeless and bleak as the raw numbers make it appear,” said Parfait Onanga‑Anyanga, Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for the country.
Atrocities committed mainly by armed groups that were slow to accept the Government’s proposal for dialogue had thwarted the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said, causing insecurity to persist and darkening an already precarious humanitarian picture.
Despite such adversity, the Government was working hard to the strengthen newly established democratic institutions and an inclusive political process. The message to everyone was clear: the campaign against impunity — a chronic weakness and source of recurring conflict — was under way.
He also drew attention to the 900 additional troops that the Security Council had authorized in MINUSCA’s renewed mandate, underscoring: “The fate of millions of civilians hinges on the commitment of well‑equipped, well‑trained and determined troops to use all the power bestowed upon them by the Council to protect populations from harm.”
Esa Pulkkinen, Commander of the European Union Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic, speaking from Brussels, said that small numbers of the armed forces in the country trained by the Mission had begun to deploy. Despite logistical constraints, reports on their progress had been favourable. More steps were needed to re‑operationalize both the armed and internal security forces — a critical step for bringing back public institutions and extending State authority. In that context, a 9,800‑strong army was planned by 2021, with some 4,500 of those troops redeployed outside Bangui.
Bedializoun Moussa Nebie, the African Union’s Special Representative to the Central African Republic, briefing via videoconference from Bouar, updated the Council on the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation. The panel facilitating the initiative had visited the country in November and December to meet with political and military leaders of armed groups to build trust and listen to their concerns. Next month, the panel would visit a second time to seek concrete proposals for a solution to the violence. The message of the African Union was welcomed by the armed groups, easing tensions in certain regions, he noted.
Omar Hilale, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Central African Republic Configuration, underscored that despite the country’s continued fragility, there had been positive steps forward, such as the implementation of the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan. Efforts were also under way to coordinate the basic deployment of internal security forces and providers of basic social services in order to reinforce the social contract between the population and the State.
Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué, Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013), said that regional cooperation was key in fighting cross‑border threats. However, without the sanctions regime and other assistance from the international community, any steps taken could still fall short of eradicating the conflict’s root causes. Having met eight times, the Committee continued to closely monitor work with the Central African Republic and was planning a visit to the country in 2018.
The representative of the Central African Republic said that with the end of the political transition and the holding of credible democratic elections, everyone had been hopeful until intercommunity violence had broken out. It was clear that the violence was taking place because of the rivalries between armed groups and self‑defence militias, against a political backdrop where leaders did not want to see an end to the crisis. With regard to sanctions, she welcomed the Council’s renewal of those measures and hoped that they would produce the desired result.
After the briefings, several Council members also expressed their concern over the violence and worsening humanitarian situation, while applauding the Government’s efforts that had strengthened state institutions, as well as disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation measures.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Peru, Equatorial Guinea and Bolivia.
The meeting started at 4:05 p.m. and ended at 5:18 p.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 latest report on the situation in the country (document S/2018/125), noted that violence and atrocities continued to affect a large part of the civilian population. Violence and unacceptable human rights abuses were mainly being committed by armed groups that were slow to accept the Government’s proposal for dialogue. As a result, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of origin remained compromised and insecurity persisted. That real human tragedy darkened an already precarious humanitarian picture, in which the lack of emergency humanitarian assistance put the lives of nearly half of the Central African population at risk.
Despite such adversity, there had been inroads toward peace, he said, highlighting that the Government was working hard to restore State authority and strengthen the newly established democratic institutions. That inclusive political process was gradually strengthening. The message to everyone was clear: the campaign against impunity — long a source of recurring conflicts — was under way. A formal justice system would soon be complemented by the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms, enabling a better balance between justice and national reconciliation to guarantee lasting peace. Thanks to the multifaceted efforts under way, national security and defence structures were undergoing in‑depth reforms.
Efforts were under way to more effectively protect civilian populations while ensuring the safety and security of all peacekeepers, he said. Unless MINUSCA had the capacity to apply meaningful military pressure on armed groups that remained reluctant to embrace peace, however, no peace process could take hold. He drew attention to the 900 additional troops that the Security Council authorized in the Mission’s renewed mandate, underscoring: “The fate of millions of civilians hinges on the commitment of well‑equipped, well‑trained and determined troops to use all the power bestowed upon them by the Council to protect populations from harm.” Together with the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, the Mission continued to apply a comprehensive, proactive approach to sustainably reduce the threat posed by armed groups. Further efforts were under way to streamline and prioritize activities, focusing on core peacekeeping tasks, while engaging in a constructive dialogue with other key partners. “The picture in the Central African Republic is not as hopeless and bleak as the raw numbers make it appear,” he concluded.
BEDIALIZOUN MOUSSA NEBIE, Special Representative of the African Union to the Central African Republic, briefing the Council via videoconference from Bouar, said that regarding implementation of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, the panel of facilitators visited in November and December 2017 and met with political and military leaders of armed groups. The main goal was to establish the first contact between the leaders and the panel to build trust. The message was to get them to accept the road map and to listen to their concerns. At the end of the first visit most of the concerns were political, as well as socioeconomic and other concerns. In addition to the armed groups, the panel also met local political actors and tried to understand what their concerns were. The conclusions were given to the Head of State, the President of the National Assembly, the political parties, diplomatic corps, civil society organizations and the public, via a press conference.
On 19 March, the panel would visit a second time to meet the same actors, he said. The main goals were to collect concerns in writing, along with proposals for solution. At the end of the second tour, those concerns would be submitted to the Government for its consideration. Concerning the impact of the Initiative, at the end of the first meeting there were already signs for a peace agreement. All the armed groups that the panel met with welcomed the message of the African Union, where they were called to adhere to the peace process and reject all forms of violence. They were made aware of the road map and asked to convey that to their base. During the first tour an agreement was made to have a permanent contact group between the panel and the armed groups. That contributed to an easing of tensions in certain regions. He asked for continued support from the Security Council and the international community. He appealed to armed groups to adhere to dialogue and to the panel to continue with its programme.
ESA PULKKINEN, Commander of the European Union Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic, speaking via videoconference from Brussels, welcomed MINUSCA’s recent mandate extension, noting that his own training mission was tasked with contributing to the country’s defence sector reform as coordinated by MINUSCA. The joint support plan on security sector reform and the rule of law in the Central African Republic, signed in July 2017 between his mission and the MINUSCA‑European Union delegation, defined the basis of the two missions’ coordination and complementarity. Despite some progress, he nevertheless voiced concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation, stressing that the crisis in the Central African Republic would be resolved not through force but through dialogue, justice and reconciliation. Expressing support for President Faustin Archange Touadera and his Government in their peacebuilding efforts, he said armed forces of the Central African Republic — trained by the European Union Training Mission — had already begun to deploy, albeit in small numbers and under considerable logistical constraints. Reports on their performance had been favourable.
While those were steps in the right direction, he continued, they were not enough to re‑operationalize the Central African Republic’s armed forces, known as FACA. All political actors and international partners agreed on the need to restore State authority throughout the country as a key factor in resolving the crisis, he said, adding that the redeployment of the armed forces as well as the internal security forces was a critical element of ensuring the return of public institutions and services to the entire country, while also acting as a deterrent to armed groups. In that context, a 9,800‑strong army was planned by 2021, with around 4,500 of those troops redeployed outside Bangui. Describing the plan as a “huge effort”, he said MINUSCA would be one of its key enablers. The European Union mission’s support, in its next mandate, for progressive and coordinated deployment of garrisons — or decentralized hubs of FACA troops trained by that mission — was critical to the extension of State authority.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Central African Republic Configuration, expressed concern over that country’s continued fragility, renewed fighting and the emergence of new humanitarian hotspots. Nevertheless, the efforts of its many partners were beginning to pay off, with the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan now being implemented and the restoration of State authority progressing. Efforts were under way to coordinate the basic deployment of internal security forces, justice actors and providers of basic social services in order to reinforce the social contract between the population and the State. “As we move forward, it will be important to ensure the sequencing and complementarity between reconciliation efforts, restoration of State authority and delivering peace dividends to the population,” he said.
The Central African Republic Configuration worked to bring a long‑term focus to the country’s stabilization, reconciliation and development efforts, he said, adding that it promoted an integrated and coherent approach to international and regional peacebuilding efforts and brought attention to its glaring resource and capacity gaps. “The Central African Republic is at a critical juncture,” he said, stressing that the Government must be supported to drive the reforms necessary for implementing the National Plan. While $2.23 billion had been pledged at the Brussels Conference, the delivery rate of ongoing projects for which financing had already been obtained stood at 16 per cent in 2017. There was a need to prioritize the provision of technical assistance and to fill capacity gaps. Partners should also encourage the positive developments regarding the restoration of State authority, he said, adding that long‑term security depended on the prioritization of justice and the fight against impunity. He also expressed support for the African Initiative — which brought together all peace efforts under the Libreville road map — and welcomed the Peacebuilding Fund’s support of more than $250,000, that of the African Union Commission of $200,000, and of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the amount of $180,000.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d'Ivoire), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013), briefed the Council on activities since 2017, including positive developments such as the start of political consultations within the framework of the African Union initiative and the engaging of armed groups in disarmament, demobilization and security sector reform. Yet, levels of violence in south‑east and north‑west regions had climbed, with armed groups attacking civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. Having met eight times, the Committee continued to closely monitor work with Central African Republic authorities and had convened its first open briefing for all Member States, prompting opportunities to hear broad views on how to enhance the implementation of sanctions.
Regional cooperation was key in fighting cross‑border threats, he said. However, without the sanctions regime and other assistance from the international community, steps taken in combating those challenges could fall short of eradicating the conflict’s root causes. He highlighted the stellar work of the United Nations Mine Action Service, which had briefed the Committee along with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). The Panel of Experts’ reporting had included the submission of 32 statements of case for possibly designating sanctions. The Committee also heard briefings from security authorities and worked closely with the Government, regional countries and Member States regarding the arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze, he said, noting that the Committee was planning a visit to the Central African Republic in 2018.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) supported the efforts under way in the Central African Republic through the deployment of engineers from Peru’s armed forces. The modest political gains made had not been secured, he said, stressing the need to end the ongoing violence in the country. There was a need to build and strengthen the State and extend its presence nationwide through the promotion of a peaceful and inclusive society. The difficult socioeconomic reality contributed to instability. More must be done to protect civilians through a strengthened judicial system and efforts to combat impunity. Cases of abuses, including sexual violence and crimes against children, must be investigated and prosecuted.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed concern about the ongoing violence caused by some armed groups in the Central African Republic that affected the entire civilian population and worsened the humanitarian situation. Despite the notable progress made and the presence of the United Nations to strengthen stability in the Central African Republic, the country continued to suffer disturbances and instability, resulting in the loss of life, including many women and children. Equatorial Guinea welcomed the efforts made by the Central African Republic to strengthen the State following the conclusion of the political transition, including those aimed at disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as security sector reform. Stability in the Central African Republic would mean stability for the entire region, he underscored.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said the ongoing violence promoted by armed groups through asymmetric attacks and the constant intercommunal tensions in the Central African Republic were factors that proved that there was much to be done with regard to the security situation in the country. He expressed concern that the number of internally displaced persons remained high, food insecurity had increased and schools had closed. Despite the complicated security situation, he commended the Mission’s efforts to protect civilians and the Government’s efforts to strengthen State control, build its institutions and bolster the armed forces; all of which would help peace efforts. He encouraged the Central African Republic to implement the national programme for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and commended the support provided by MINUSCA in that area.
AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) said that with the end of the political transition and the holding of credible democratic elections, everyone was hopeful. Progress had been registered in several areas to the satisfaction of everyone, but then intercommunity violence broke out throughout the country. Reading the Secretary‑General’s report, she thought that the country was not far from a relapse. She welcomed the joint operations carried out by MINUSCA and the armed forces of the country, which had reduced the presence of armed groups in one area. It was clear that the rivalry between armed groups and self‑defence militias was the reason that the violence was continuing. In addition, opportunistic political leaders did not want to see the end of the crisis. She welcomed the fact that the incitement to violence and incendiary rhetoric were taken into account by the Security Council in renewing the sanctions regime and she hoped that such measures would produce the desired result. The Council had to make sure the Mission had the means commensurate with the ever‑increasing activities that were conferred upon it. She expressed the satisfaction she felt with the cooperation between the authorities and MINUSCA and she reiterated to the Mission Head her gratitude for his efforts.