Peace Will Not Work without Concerted Efforts by Region, Partners, African Union Cautions, as Foreign Minister Touts Progress
Amid a precarious humanitarian situation, the Central African Republic needs robust international support now more than ever before, as the country edges towards peace after the signing of a new peace agreement, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and other senior United Nations and international officials told the Security Council today.
Outgoing Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Nyanga emphasized: “The unified political support of this Council, the countries of the region and the international community will remain critical to the successful implementation of the 6 February peace agreement”, signed by the Government of the Central African Republic and representatives of 14 armed groups in Bangui, the capital.
Presenting the latest report of the Secretary‑General on the situation in that country (document S/2019/147), he stressed: “Never before has the support of the international community and the region been so vital for the Government and people of the Central African Republic.” However, while the signing of the peace agreement represents an important milestone on the path to a lasting solution to years of conflict, it is “only a first step”, he cautioned.
Mr. Onanga-Nyanga, who also heads the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said the Bangui Accord differs from previous peace agreements, noting that it entails monitoring mechanisms and discussions on pressing issues, while supporting the Secretary-General’s vision on the primacy of the political arena.
Delivering a second briefing, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security asked the Security Council to consider adapting elements of MINUSCA to better match the current situation on the ground. Underlining the great needs of the people, Commissioner Smail Chergui said that some communities do not even know what a hospital is, appealing for immediate action to implement the Bangui Accord and give the people hope. “We don’t have any illusions,” he said. “Peace will not work unless the partners of the region unite their efforts,” he added. “The real work is beginning now that the agreement is signed.”
Echoing that sentiment were Léon Houadja Kacou Adom (Côte d’Ivoire), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013); Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa of the European Union’s External Action Service; and Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Mr. Hilale briefed on his fourth visit to the Central African Republic, soon after the peace agreement’s signing, saying that both the Government and the people await a strong signal of support for its implementation. Exchanges with civil society revealed an enormous appetite for peace and justice, as well as hope for a better future, he said. Communicating the agreement’s contents and challenges will be key, and translating the text into Sango, the national language, will facilitate ownership among the people and deter the spread of rumours, he noted.
Council members readily expressed their support for the Bangui Accord, with Germany’s delegate describing it as a “triumph of multilateralism”. Several members underlined the urgent need to address serious humanitarian concerns and development challenges. Peru’s representative insisted that women and youth must be included in the peace process. The delegates of France and South Africa suggested that MINUSCA support quick-impact projects so as to speed up disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration efforts.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said that, while the road to national reconciliation is rocky, the Bangui Accord lays the foundation for lasting peace. He noted, however, efforts to “blacken” the Russian Federation’s efforts, citing the flagrant double standards expressed by his counterpart from the United States. Concerning the killing of Russian journalists in the country, he said the Russian Federation’s embassy in Bangui was not informed of their arrival, but it remains steadfast in investigating the killings. As for a distorted United Nations report implicating the Russian Federation in the torture of Mahamat Nour Mamadou, he said the French embassy in Bangui was also involved.
Sylvie Valérie Baipo Temon, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic, outlined the progress made in extending State authority throughout the national territory, in addition to undertaking reform of the security and defence sectors. The objective is to re-establish the rule of law, she said, asserting that the Central African Republic will move forward despite its painful past.
Also delivering statements were representative of the United States, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Poland, Germany, Indonesia, United Kingdom and Equatorial Guinea.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 1:02 p.m.
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), presented the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in that country (document S/2019/147), citing its highlights. Among the important progress made in the peace process, the political agreement signed on 6 February represents an important milestone towards a durable solution and the commitment by the signatory parties to collectively address all challenges going forward, he said.
He went on to note that the Bangui Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic also represents the end of a long process and a decisive turn in the country’s history, accompanied by positive steps, from security-sector reform to ending impunity. Differing from previous agreements, the Accord — signed by the Government and armed groups — entails monitoring mechanisms and discussions on pressing issues, he noted, adding that it supports the Secretary-General’s vision on the primacy of the political arena. Commending the role of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the process, he said other countries of the region also made key contributions to the dialogue.
However, the agreement is “only a first step”, he cautioned, expressing concern about the country’s precarious humanitarian situation. Calling upon the parties to honour their commitments, he stressed that forthcoming elections in 2020 and 2021 represent an opportunity for the country to turn its back on conflict, once and for all. Commending the joint African Union-United Nations initiative to convene a meeting of the International Group to Support the Central African Republic, he underlined the Security Council’s special role in that regard. “Our faith in the action of the Council is great,” he said, adding: “The unified political support of this Council, the countries of the region and the international community will remain critical to the successful implementation of the 6 February peace agreement.” He continued: “Never before has the support of the international community and the region been so vital for the Government and people of the Central African Republic.”
SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, said that efforts are under way to make 2019 the year of peace for the Central African Republic, citing recent interviews with the people aimed at addressing deep-rooted issues, including questions of justice, fair distribution of national wealth and inclusivity in State institutions. Meanwhile, a three-level follow-up process will ensure that pledges of peace will be met. To better suit the current situation on the ground, the African Union requests that the Security Council consider adapting elements of MINUSCA, he said, adding that the Mission has accomplished important gains.
Highlighting the important role played by the region’s countries in supporting the new peace agreement, he said that such partnerships will help the Central African Republic’s progress towards its implementation. “We don’t have any illusions,” he declared, emphasizing: “Peace will not work unless the partners of the region unite their efforts.” He added: The real work is beginning now that the agreement is signed.” Pointing out that the people’s needs are great — with some communities not even knowing what a hospital is — he urged stakeholders to find the means for immediate implementation of the peace agreement in order to give people hope. Such efforts must also address poverty, which remains the enemy of development, and silence the guns, he said. “We need the support of the Security Council now more than ever before,” he reiterated.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, briefed on his fourth visit to that country, soon after the signing of the Bangui Accord. He said that he was accompanied by the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding and several members of the Commission. The delegation sent a strong signal to everyone it met that the international community is committed to supporting the Central African Republic. In response, he added, the President conveyed his determination to implement the peace agreement and expressed his wish that the Council review MINUSCA’s mandate and allow its participation in joint patrols.
He went on to state that, in its exchanges with representatives of civil society, including women and youth, the delegation found an enormous appetite for peace and justice as well as hope for a better future. The representatives emphasized the importance of both symbolic gestures and actions that will deliver the peace dividend to the people. He said the delegation also met with representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations country team, who stressed the need to quickly deploy additional financing to support the agreement’s implementation. He added that, on his way back to New York, he stopped in Paris, where he called upon the International Organization of La Francophonie to mobilize in favour of the Bangui Accord.
Sharing the key observations from the delegation’s visit, he emphasized that the Central African Republic needs the Council’s support now more than ever. Both the Government and the people await a strong signal of support for implementation of the peace agreement. With presidential and legislative elections due in 2020, the window of opportunity created by its signing could close quickly, he warned, underlining the need for MINUSCA to communicate quickly what it plans to do in support of the agreement while raising awareness among various stakeholders. Communicating the agreement’s contents and challenges will be key, he said, noting that translating the text into Sango, the national language, will facilitate ownership among the people and deter the spread of rumours. He emphasized the decisive role of neighbouring countries, saying: “They are part of the solution to get the [Central African Republic] out of its crisis.” He pointed out that MINUSCA cannot remain deployed forever, and that a targeted contribution would bring the success of its mandate closer.
KOEN VERVAEKE, Managing Director for Africa, External Action Service, European Union, briefed via video-teleconference from Brussels, emphasizing that the peace agreement, while opening a new chapter, is no reason to sit back. “We collectively need to engage more, not less,” he said. The agreement’s implementation is the joint responsibility of its signatories, who need the international community’s support, he added, stressing that the priority is to put follow-up mechanisms in place and to win people’s hearts and minds by spreading word of the Bangui Accord.
He went on to state that the Government must become more inclusive, with the National Assembly giving voice to victims, women and youth, adding that efforts in favour of justice and reconciliation must take shape quickly at the national and local levels. Mixed security units with clear mandates and specific areas of operation can help to build confidence, he said, emphasizing that their creation must be in accordance with the principles and spirit of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration.
Pointing out that State weakness, fragility, instability, and the protracted humanitarian crisis will not disappear overnight, he stressed that the Government will not be alone in shouldering the burden. The European Union will continue to play its role during implementation, he said, adding that the bloc is always examining ways to sustain and even increase its support. The European Union Training Mission in Central African Republic, with almost 200 staff on the ground, is being expanded at the Government’s request to include a civilian element intended to improve interoperability with the internal security forces, he said, adding that the mission will continue to work hand in hand with MINUSCA.
The European Union is also looking at ways to help the Government redeploy the State’s authority at the local level, he continued, noting that its Bekou Trust Fund, with €240 million engaged so far, is supporting a broad range of programmes. Going forward, the Fund will focus on vulnerable areas, he said, emphasizing the essential need for people to see peace dividends. The European Union’s humanitarian engagement will remain intact, linking relief, rehabilitation and development. Underscoring the important role to be played by the Central African Republic’s neighbours, he said the relaunch of bilateral joint commissions will contribute to a secure regional framework. “The true challenges of the peace agreement are political, and are not necessarily a question of additional budgets,” he said, adding that the European Union and the Central African Republic are committed to continuing their strengthened political dialogue.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013), briefed on the body’s recent activities. While citing some positive developments, he said violence continues and the number of internally displaced persons is increasing. Meanwhile, peacekeepers, civilians and humanitarian workers continue to face attacks, which amount to sanctionable acts. The Committee’s work has centred on the implementation of sanctions and collaborating more closely with key partners and stakeholders. In addition, he said, members also reviewed the Panel of Experts’ December report, which commended the African Union peace initiative but raised concerns about ongoing violence and sanctions violations, as well as armed groups’ exploitation of natural resources and the cattle trade to fund their activities.
Citing the Committee’s various meetings with stakeholders about achievements and challenges ahead, he said among the Government of the Central African Republic’s main concerns is lifting the arms embargo to ensure that imports to authorities would no longer require the Committee’s prior approval. Council resolution 2454 (2019) takes steps forward in that regard, including a review of arms embargo measures by 30 September. He also recalled that the Committee conveyed the Panel of Experts’ report to regional States and stakeholders at a January meeting, requesting their reactions.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the new peace agreement, representing “an important step forward”, can and must be a new beginning for the Central African Republic. Welcoming the parties’ commitments, he said the challenge in the days to come will be to make the most of this historic opportunity, which is the first decisive step on the path to peace. Priorities should include ending armed groups’ violent acts against authorities, civilians and MINUSCA. In addition, attention must be paid to the aspirations of the people of the Central African Republic, particularly on justice, inclusion and national reconciliation. It is essential that women are able to fully participate in the process. The international community must help support the new agreement’s implementation and quick-impact projects should be launched to boost progress. Meanwhile, MINUSCA should continue its important work with the Council’s support, he said.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the Bangui Accord is built on trust and confidence which, unfortunately, have been in short supply in recent years. Its implementation must therefore aim to earn the people’s trust. Pointing out that the United States has committed billions of dollars to humanitarian assistance, judicial capacity-building and United Nations efforts in the Central African Republic, he emphasized that the reconciliation process must be based on inclusiveness. The Council is fortunate to have three members — South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Peru — that can share their experience of truth-and-reconciliation processes, he said. However, the United States is deeply concerned about reports of torture by Central African Republic troops and trainers, he said, calling for those responsible to be held accountable, and urging an investigation into the 2018 deaths of three Russian journalists in that country.
MA ZHAOXU (China), noting the Central African Republic’s security, political and humanitarian challenges, said all parties must honour their commitments and effectively implement the Bangui Accord. A follow-up mechanism must be put in place as soon as possible and the international community must make good on supporting it. He expressed hope that MINUSCA will continue its efforts to enhance the Government’s administrative capacity, promote security-sector reform and undertake disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration efforts. In the long term, peace and stability will not be possible without sustained support from the United Nations and African Union as well as regional and international partners, he pointed out, emphasizing that the Council must remain united and ensure the conditions for the agreement to succeed. Sanctions should aim for the early restoration of stability, law and order, he stressed.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), calling upon all parties to honour their commitment to implement the Bangui Accord, stressed the need for all segments of society to take ownership of the peace process. Success can only come about by ending all violence against peacekeepers, humanitarian personnel and civilians, including women and children. The disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration process, together with the establishment of a monitoring mission, will be the key to ending the crisis, he said, stressing also the importance of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission. He encouraged the international community to support the restoration of State authority throughout the national territory and called upon neighbouring States and international partners to coordinate their efforts in that regard.
JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) commended the role of President Omer Al-Bashir of Sudan, President Idriss Déby Itno of Chad and other partners in negotiations leading up to the signing of the Bangui Accord, saying peace and stability in the entire Central African subregion is critical if “we are to achieve the Africa we want”, as outlined in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Pointing to regional developments, including the recent peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic’s leadership in peace negotiations, he said the role of the Security Council and regional organizations is to support both countries on their paths towards lasting peace. Turning to the dire humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, where more than 25 per cent of the population are internally displaced and in desperate need of assistance, he urged the international community to support ongoing efforts to deliver aid. Calling upon MINUSCA to continue to assist disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration efforts, he said the Mission should also develop quick-impact projects to allow for the reintegration of demobilized rebel elements into society. He expressed worry, however, about reports of human rights violations and persistent violence.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said the Bangui Accord reflects a commitment to ending violence after five years of conflict, emphasizing that women and young people must participate fully in the peace process going forward. To ensure the Accord’s success, gains must be made in the security and development arenas, with a sharp focus on addressing the prevailing dire humanitarian conditions, he said. Priorities must include a focus on speeding up disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programmes, strengthening support for MINUSCA and establishing a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to address sexual violence and recruitment of children by armed groups, among other things. The coming months will be crucial, he said, stressing that international support remains essential.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said the Secretary-General’s report reminds the Council of the need to end violence and facilitate the return of civilians to their homes. Armed groups must cease hostilities and lay down their weapons, and the Government must ensure an inclusive Administration. Emphasizing the importance of establishing a culture of peace and the possibility of reconciling the people, he said other countries have done it and now it is the Central African Republic’s turn. The arms embargo is an important signal to those responsible for impeding the peace process, he added. MINUSCA should continue to carry out its mandate as the peace agreement is implemented, he said, adding that, with support from the European Union and other partners, it should maintain its work on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation programmes, which should now speed up.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) called on the parties to the peace agreement to fulfil its provisions in a transparent manner with the participation of civil society, women and youth. Describing the start of elections preparations as a cause for optimism, he called on MINUSCA and the international community to deploy all the necessary logistical, financial and security means to ensure their success. He also called upon all armed groups to end violence and lay down weapons, condemned human rights violations including sexual violence, and called for safe, sustainable and unfettered humanitarian access. He further called on the Central African Republic to criminalize the recruitment of children by armed groups, and on the international community to provide MINUSCA with the resources it needs to monitor, report and respond to such activities.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), welcoming Sudan’s role as host of the peace negotiations, said positive trends in places such as the Horn of Africa provide a glimmer of hope for the continent. Voicing optimism that the efforts of the African Union, regional groups and Governments will endure until there is widespread peace — enabling all people in Africa to enjoy security and development — he nevertheless said violence in the Central African Republic remains a major challenge and the security situation is fragile in Bangui and elsewhere. He expressed concern about recurring violence and abuse directed by armed groups at United Nations personnel and other humanitarian actors, and condemned attacks on Muslims and their places of worship, regardless of the identity of the perpetrators. The Government should end the culture of impunity. Noting that half of those in need of humanitarian assistance are children, he said dialogue would improve the humanitarian situation and open the door for the return of refugees.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the progressive decentralization of State authority is a matter of priority, together with the redeployment of national security forces. Calling on all armed groups to cease violence against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel, she said mixed security units will help stabilize the situation in those areas most affected by conflict. Meanwhile, the fight against impunity must be addressed through transitional justice mechanisms in a way that contributes to sustainable national reconciliation. She underlined the responsibility of subregional partners and neighbouring countries, not only to help restore stability in the Central African Republic but also to address such cross-border challenges as smuggling, wildlife poaching and trafficking, as well as irregular migration.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) described the Bangui Accord as a watershed moment reflecting the harmonizing of peace initiatives, possibly with help from Sudan and his own country in organizing talks in August. Emphasizing that the Russian Federation is ready to help the Central African Republic without hidden agendas or double standards, he said Russian military specialists have been able to achieve results, having trained more than 1,000 Central African Republic troops and provided assistance that will include medical services. Noting that the road to national reconciliation is rocky, he said an extremely important first step has laid the foundation for lasting peace in the country, stressing the need for constructive coordination among all players amid the current conditions. He emphasized, however, that people are trying to “blacken” the Russian Federation’s efforts, citing the flagrant double standards expressed by his counterpart from the United States. Concerning the Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic, he said that his country’s embassy in Bangui was not informed of their arrival, but it remains steadfast in investigating the killings. Recalling a 12 February reference to a distorted element of a United Nations report implicating the Russian Federation in the torture of an individual, Mahamat Nour Mamadou, he stressed that the French embassy in Bangui was also involved. He went on to note that Mr. Mamadou subsequently stated that the French approached him and offered him money to say he had been tortured by Russians. Other concerns include actions taken on the Colombia-Venezuela border and interference in the affairs of other sovereign States, he said, underlining that such activities represent behaviour that the Russian Federation does not support.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) noted that cooperation among countries of the region has been of utmost importance in the process leading up to the signing of the Bangui Accord, which itself represents “a triumph in multilateralism”. However, the recruitment of child soldiers must end immediately, and the political process must be inclusive, he said. Underlining the importance of communicating the substance of the peace agreement to the people, he said it is essential to quell persistent rumours. In addition, justice must ensure an end to impunity and the establishment of courts to prosecute suspects. He went on to thank the “Blue Helmets” of MINUSCA for having endured so much suffering under difficult circumstances and for their continuing efforts.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) highlighted the urgent need to address the dire humanitarian situation, pointing out that thousands of protection-related incidents are reported each month. He expressed alarm to learn that 16 per cent more people — a total of 2.9 million — need assistance in 2019 than in 2018 amid record levels of displacement, with more than 1 million having fled their homes. One in three children suffered from severe malnutrition and half the population lack access to safe drinking water, he noted. Urging countries to continue their support and deliver commitments, he called upon the Government to do its part, including by pursuing its disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programme. The Mission’s role is more important than ever before, he said, emphasizing the need to optimize MINUSCA’ performance. Indonesia, for its part, is contributing 200 engineering troops and formed police units, including 14 female officers, he said. “We should continue the momentum set out by the global peace agreement,” he added. “We should continue on this path to build peace, ending conflicts and silencing guns.”
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said it is encouraging to see the African Union-led process yield a peace agreement between the Government and all armed groups. “We are hopeful for the future,” he added, emphasizing the need to sustain the momentum and deliver the dividends of peace to the people. However, that should not come at the expense of trust, he added, stressing that members of armed groups will have to work harder than most to earn that trust. Recent allegations of torture and illegal detention by Central African Republic troops and Russian trainers are deeply concerning, he said, adding that, if they are true, those responsible must be held to account. He went on to state that the United Kingdom has committed millions of dollars to the Central African Republic and MINUSCA since 2013, and remains committed to supporting the country’s people as they work towards a peaceful and prosperous future.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), Council President for February, spoke in her national capacity, urging the parties to the Bangui Accord to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in strictly respecting their commitments, including compliance with the implementation timeline and ending armed violence against civilians. She called upon African Union member States and other partners to support implementation in good faith, noting the Government’s commitment to identifying the root causes of the crisis and promoting genuine national reconciliation. She also underlined the need for the country’s people to understand there cannot be peace without forgiveness. Noting the 16 per cent increase in the number of people requiring assistance and protection to 2.89 million in the past year, she said that although the path to peace will not be easy, the Central African Republic is demonstrating that, after six years of horror, historic achievements are possible through diplomatic efforts and inclusive dialogue. She went on to emphasize the need for the people to take ownership of the Bangui Accord, with the international community — particularly the United Nations, the African Union and subregional structures — also playing a central role.
SYLVIE VALÉRIE BAIPO TEMON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic, provided an update on the situation in her country, describing the signing of the Bangui Accord, in the presence of the leaders of 14 armed groups, as a big step towards peace and reconciliation. The situation remains fragile, however, and only through implementation of the Accord will peace and social cohesion be possible, she cautioned. Highlighting the progress that the Government has made in extending State authority throughout the national territory — with the support of MINUSCA, the European Union and other partners — she also cited reform of the security and defence sectors, the training of 500 police officers and gendarmes, and the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration process.
National authorities are doing all they can, including by creating an inclusive commission to manage transitional justice that will dovetail with the truth and reconciliation commission, she said, emphasizing the Government’s commitment to ongoing dialogue with representatives of the armed groups. The Minister for Humanitarian Action and Reconciliation discussed the return of displaced persons with them during a meeting last week, she recalled. Describing the struggle against insecurity as a permanent challenge requiring the pooling of efforts, she stressed that commitments must be consistent with equality, human rights and justice, among other principles. Partnership must be mutual, strong, responsible and without discrimination, focused on addressing the expectations and issues at hand, she emphasized. The objective for the Central African Republic is to re-establish the rule of law, she added, reiterating that the country will move forward despite its painful past. Turning to the sanctions regime, she said it should neither limit nor restrict the Government’s efforts to restore peace, State authority and economic development.