While the 6 February signing of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic gave rise to much hope for an end to the decades-long crisis in that country, the accord’s ultimate success will depend on the parties’ willingness to end the violence and engage in dialogue, the Special Representative told the Security Council today.
Updating on recent events, Mankeur Ndiaye, who is also Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said armed groups in particular must abide by the security arrangements to which they committed. He welcomed in that context the dismantling of illegal barriers by the Popular Front for the Renaissance as an encouraging sign.
At the same time, he condemned the killing of 39 civilians in Ouham Pende on 21 May by elements of the Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) group, stressing that a high-level mission deployed to the area on 31 May demanded cooperation with judicial authorities in making arrests, the dismantling of its base and immediate involvement in the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programme.
He said progress on that front will be crucial in the run-up to presidential elections in 2020, as will advances in establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. “The situation really is fragile.”
On that point, African Union Special Representative Matias Bertino Matondo, briefing from Bangui, said political progress in 2018 opened the way for better interaction between the Government and armed groups. Other gains included the appointment of a Prime Minister in February and formation of a new, more inclusive Government. Intermediary security measures are also being put in place, and the African Union is pushing forward disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration arrangements.
Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Service of the European Union, commended the Central African Republic’s President and Prime Minister for “respecting their commitments, even at high political cost”. The European Union is providing support to the Technical Secretariat of the Comité Exécutif de suivi and will soon provide parallel support to the armed groups — to reinforce their ownership of the agreement, and coach them on delivering on their engagements.
In addition, he said the legal basis has been prepared and initial funding secured for the formation of special mixed security units — which will include both national military and former armed group members. Manning lists for the units are still incomplete, both on the part of the Government and armed groups, delaying the process. The buy-in and full association of the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic and the Etat-Major will be crucial but is as yet still missing.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates hailed the February signing of the peace accord, with France’s delegate welcoming additional measures taken by the Government to ensure it is fulfilled. Noting that France is providing €10 million to bolster the Government administration and €28 million for quick-impact recovery programmes, he called on all actors to ensure election preparations take place in a calm atmosphere.
Several delegates focused on the fragile security conditions and condemned violence perpetrated by 3R. The United States delegate welcomed the work of MINUSCA’s first demobilization team in that context, calling its efforts essential as “people will trust the Central African Republic military and mixed brigades when they see they are committed to protecting civilians”. On that point, Equatorial Guinea’s delegate welcomed that armed group signatories have assumed responsibility for implementing the peace agreement, as well as the appointment of members from those groups to key leadership posts. He underlined the importance of recovery, good governance and social cohesion in that context.
Spotlighting trafficking flows and the imposition of illegal taxes as among the serious crimes that may fall under sanctions listing criteria, Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate welcomed the establishment of monitoring mechanisms across the country, while South Africa’s delegate underscored that the Central African Republic has demonstrated the political will towards the progressive easing of sanctions.
The Central African Republic’s representative acknowledged the challenges ahead, as civilian protection remains a major concern. “Unfortunately, with the Poaua massacre, we were brought back to reality,” she said, reiterating the Government’s commitment to the February peace agreement.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Belgium, Peru, Russian Federation, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Poland and Kuwait.
The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 5:03 p.m.
MANKEUR NDIAYE, 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), said the signing of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation on 6 February gave rise to much hope — both within the country and in the region — for an end to the decades-long crisis. Since then, a more inclusive Government came into power on 22 March, following consultations in Addis Ababa. The United Nations, African Union and European Union met in Bangui on 17 April within the framework of the International Support Group to mobilize regional and international actors.
He noted that a joint high-level mission of the Central African Republic, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and MINUSCA was deployed on 31 May to demand cooperation in the arrest of those responsible for events that took place on 21 May, when in Ouham Pende, elements of the armed group Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (“3R”) killed 39 civilians — atrocities which he condemned. They urged the heads of 3R to cooperate with judicial authorities in the arrest of those responsible for the massacre, to dismantle their bases and to immediately participate in a disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programme.
He said a second mission travelled to 3R’s base in Koui on 18 June, where the armed group committed to starting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on 29 June, bringing together mixed security units in the west of the country, and cooperating with judicial inquiries on the massacres. Following these events, the mission started a military operation, bringing additional pressure to bear for the protection of civilians, and aiming to prevent reprisals and stop armed groups in the area. This resulted in the arrest of the 3R members suspected of involvement in the 21 May events. “The situation really is fragile”, he said, with 50 to 75 violations of the Agreement each week.
For its part, MINUSCA continues to use its good offices to urge parties to uphold their peace agreement commitments, he continued. It works with the Government, the guarantors and other facilitators and partners to provide parties with the political and logistical support needed for the success of the Agreement. More broadly, MINUSCA supports all the structures envisioned by the accord, he said, citing its organization of an awareness-raising campaign informing local actors about the Agreement, and support for local peace and reconciliation committees. Ultimately, the Agreement’s success depends on the parties’ will to end the violence, he said, and engage in dialogue to settle disputes, per the Agreement. Stressing that armed groups must abide by security arrangements to which they committed on 6 February, he welcomed the dismantling of illegal barriers by the Popular Front for the Renaissance as an encouraging sign.
He said that lasting improvements will also require rapid progress on disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration. MINUSCA continues to support security sector reform, he said, welcoming the Government’s efforts to create more professional forces and noting that a national recruitment campaign recently launched for the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic will be followed by another for the police force. The creation of an environment conducive to economic recovery and job creation, especially for young people to ensure they do not join armed groups, is particularly important.
Turning to the “disastrous” humanitarian situation, he said 2.9 million people, half of them children, require assistance and protection, while 2.1 million people are food insecure. It is essential for the peace agreement to create better access to assistance, and for development activities to be launched in areas that are already stable. There are 590,000 refugees in neighbouring countries. National consultations for the creation of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission will allow Central Africans to offer their views for ensuring redress for victims of abuse, application of justice for the perpetrators of grave crimes and the path towards peace. Progress on that front will be critical in order for elections to take place in 2020, as planned. The elections are a crucial step for strengthening democracy, whose preparations will require financial and other help.
MATIAS BERTINO MATONDO, African Union Special Representative and Head of the African Union Office in the Central African Republic, briefing the Council via videoconference from Bangui, said the country’s political progress in 2018 opened the way for strengthened interaction between the Government and armed groups. Outlining some of the strides made, he said a Prime Minister was appointed in February and the Government has become more inclusive. Intermediary security measures are being put in place and preparations are under way to convene the country’s Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. Citing a decrease in the incidence of clashes, he said similar progress has not been seen from armed groups. Violations against civilians, including sexual violence and the illegal imposition of taxes and barriers all continue, as does cattle rustling.
Noting that the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations met in April to harmonize their work and mobilize resources, he recalled that more than 40 people were murdered on 21 May by individuals hailing from 3R . Following those events, the peace agreement’s guarantors and facilitators arrived at the massacre site to support the population and ease tensions. They also met with leaders of the three local armed movements to identify and hold the perpetrators accountable, as well as reiterating their expectations under the peace agreement. Three perpetrators were identified, but others remain at large. Outlining additional challenges, as well as ongoing work on the ground, he said the African Union is pushing forward disarmament, demobilization and reintegration arrangements while working to build an environment conducive to peace, including in the context of upcoming elections.
Outlining a series of recommendations, he called, among other things, for the launch of a new international appeal aimed at mobilizing development resources; more open dialogue among the various stakeholders in the Central African Republic; more pressure on armed groups to engage in that dialogue process; efforts to push forward the establishment of joint security units; preparations for the upcoming elections; strengthening the country’s transitional justice mechanism and the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission; efforts to strengthen accountability; additional humanitarian support for refugees and internally displaced persons; and more work to ensure that all parties in the Central African Republic adhere to the peace agreement both in letter and spirit.
KOEN VERVAEKE, Managing Director for Africa, European External Action Service, briefing the Council on behalf of the European Union, said that a critical moment has presented itself five months after the peace agreement was signed in Bangui. The Central African Republic Government has so far delivered on several fronts, including in providing representation to all armed groups. Commending Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and the Prime Minister on their leadership, he said: “They are respecting their commitments, even at high political cost.” The European Union is providing support to the Technical Secretariat of the Comité Exécutif de suivi and will soon start providing parallel support to the armed groups to reinforce their ownership of the Agreement, and train and coach them to help them deliver on their own engagements. Turning to the special mixed security units, he said that the legal basis has been prepared and initial funding secured. Manning lists for the units are still incomplete, both on the part of the Government and armed groups, delaying the whole process.
The buy-in and full association of the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic and the Etat-Major is crucial, he said. This is unfortunately still missing. Urgent additional effort is needed to fill this confidence gap. “No progress will otherwise be possible,” he added. The peace agreement continues to be violated notably by the armed groups, he continued, expressing concern for the lack of progress on disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration, lack of compliance and the violence perpetrated by certain groups. “Conducting attacks against civilians is irresponsible and inadmissible, notably by parties to a peace agreement,” he added. The crimes perpetrated in Paoua undermine collective efforts and credibility and further weaken trust. MINUSCA must continue to actively engage non-compliant armed groups and, if necessary, through pressure and use of force.
Turning to the issue of justice, he stressed that those who are responsible for crimes must be held accountable. The Central African Republic is set to hold elections in 18 months. “Any attitude calling for violence and hate speech should be considered against the peace agreement,” he emphasized. The European Union will continue to support the Central African Republic through helping strengthen its security and defence. On development, the European Commission will provide funding for health services, light infrastructure and economic recovery in agriculture. Governance, justice, rule of law and support to democratic institutions will remain at the core of European engagement.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the peace accord opened genuine prospects for ending the crisis in the Central African Republic, welcoming additional measures taken by the Government to ensure that it is fulfilled and citing in that context the creation of a new inclusive Government and re-activation of the Central African Republic-Cameroon joint commission. Decrying violence by armed groups, which continue to recruit children and violate the arms embargo, he condemned recent violence by 3R that resulted in the death of 50 civilians, which is a serious breach of the peace agreement, as well as the targeting of humanitarians. He took note of pledges by 3R’s leaders to end such abuses and welcomed MINUSCA’s firm and robust posture towards that group, which it should also display in relation to other armed groups. For its part, the Government launched a process to adopt a law on decentralization. He pressed the international community to become fully involved to ensure the Government is supported politically and financially, he said, encouraging the African Union and ECCAS to continue their efforts. France provided €10 million to strengthen Central African Republic administration; offers training for 850-950 armed force members; and in the area of recovery, provides €28 million to carry out quick-impact programmes. He called on all actors to act responsibly to ensure election preparations take place in an atmosphere that is free from tension, stressing that the peace accord should be a new start for the Central African Republic, which is why the international community should remain unified in its support to the country and MINUSCA.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) condemned the premeditated attacks which violated the 6 February Agreement, commending the Government, MINUSCA and ECCAS for securing the handover of the three suspects. 3R should dismantle its base, demobilize and disarm immediately, he said, stressing that the peace accord is the country’s best prospect for stability and there must be accountability for violating it. He welcomed disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration efforts, and the work of MINUSCA’s first demobilization team. “This work is essential as people will only trust the Central African Republic military and mixed brigades when they see they are committed to protecting civilians,” he said. He also commended signatories for acknowledging the need for justice and accountability and urged all parties to cooperate with the special criminal court, underscoring his country’s commitment to ensuring that the signatories keep their word and applying consequences — both through the United Nations and the United States Administration — for those who undermine the Agreement.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said violence by armed groups who signed the Agreement shows a flagrant disregard for the peace process. It is vital that all actors unambiguously back the peace agreement and process. With sustained international and regional support, the Central African Republic can achieve peace and he called on all armed groups to end the violence and uphold its provisions. He also called for reinforcing the local peace and reconciliation committees, stressing that people must feel they own the Agreement. Attacks against humanitarian workers and others will continue if perpetrators are not held to account. Welcoming the establishment of the special criminal court and noting that it is conducting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of its mandate, he urged the Central African Republic to accelerate progress on transitional justice. More than one in four people are displaced, and half of the population needs humanitarian assistance, he said, noting that the United Kingdom has provided $140 million for that purpose. “There is much at stake,” he said, urging a focus on creating conditions for safe and credible elections in 2020.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said the February signing of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic is a source of hope for the people of that country, as well as the wider region. Spotlighting continued challenges — including trafficking flows and the imposition of illegal taxes — he described those as serious crimes that may fall under sanctions listing criteria. Welcoming the establishment of monitoring mechanisms across the country, he nevertheless said that in light of the Central African Republic’s persistent challenges, the international community — especially the European Union, the African Union and ECCAS — should continue to rally support for the peace agreement. Subregional cooperation must also play its rightful role, he said, including through such joint cooperation commissions as the one formed by the Central African Republic and Cameroon. Civilians — including women and young people — should also play a meaningful role in the country’s peace process. Turning to the upcoming elections, he said a peaceful environment is the only guarantee that they will be held in a free, fair and transparent manner. In that regard, he drew attention to MINUSCA’s limited election support mandate, adding that he looks forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on that issue.
THANDEKILE TSHABALALA (South Africa) expressed support for the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Central African Republic and the role played by the African Union and ECCAS. “We reject any external interference or attempts by anyone to fight their regional issues using Africa as a playing field and at the expense of African lives,” he stressed. South Africa welcomes the adoption of the Electoral Code, the signing of a peace deal by six armed groups and the creation of 26 peace and reconciliation committees. The Central African Republic Government has also demonstrated the political will towards the progressive easing of the sanctions regime. Some armed groups continue with activities that violate the provisions of the peace agreement, including attacks against civilians, peacekeepers and United Nations personnel. He commended efforts of MINUSCA and the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic in addressing the threat posed by these groups and recognized the role of women as agents of change. Continued cooperation between the African Union, ECCAS, the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank is critical to ensuring successful implementation of the Political Agreement.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed the fact that armed group signatories have assumed responsibility for implementing the Central African Republic’s peace agreement, as well as the appointment of members from those groups to key leadership posts. Underlining the importance of recovery, good governance, social cohesion and development, he added that justice is another key element of the ongoing peace process. Also welcoming efforts to improve bilateral relations between the Central African Republic and other countries of the region, he nevertheless expressed concern that all those strides are being undermined by the continued violent acts of some armed factions. Strongly condemning the attack that took place on 21 May, he said very little governance or infrastructure is present in many parts of the country, leading to insecurity and making it difficult for humanitarian actors to conduct their work.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), echoing concerns expressed about ongoing violence in the Central African Republic, as well as the dire humanitarian situation, joined others in welcoming concrete steps taken by the Government to implement the peace agreement. Describing that document as a “light at the end of the tunnel”, he called on all actors in the Central African Republic, the region and the international community to help the Government produce peace dividends quickly. Germany fully supports the country’s peace process and underlined the need for political will to cease all fighting. All parties must honour their obligations. Questions of accountability will be crucial for the peace process, and efforts should be undertaken to educate the population about its next steps. Strongly condemning the killings committed by 3R in Paoua in May, he called for their prompt investigation and redoubled support for the national justice system, as well as the Special Criminal Court. Meanwhile, he said, the humanitarian situation remains of great concern, with one quarter of the country’s population displaced and the humanitarian response plan funded at only 30 per cent.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said important progress has been made in implementing the 6 February Agreement, citing the establishment of follow-up monitoring mechanisms and the 26 peace and reconciliation committees, which have enhanced mutual trust among the signatories. Noting nonetheless that there are political, humanitarian and other challenges, he expressed concern over persistent violence by armed groups, urging them to abide by their commitments under the Agreement. He supported the African Union in bringing its influence to bear on the parties, noting that MINUSCA has played an important role and outlining China’s expectation that it contribute to promoting security sector reform efforts, and those for disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration. Long-term stability will not be achieved without support from the United Nations, African Union and others, he said, recalling that the Central African Republic will hold presidential and legislative elections in 2020 and 2021.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) urged armed groups to honour their commitments to stop the violence and reprisals, stressing that perpetrators must be brought to justice. They must also stop recruiting children and carrying out non-authorized troop movements. She welcomed the creation of prefectural implementing committees, and on the topic of national ownership, stressed the importance that national disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration efforts accompany the disbanding of armed groups. The lack of access to health care, education and security can undermine the ownership of Central Africans, she said, particularly those living outside the capital. The Central African Republic can count on support from the European Union, ECCAS and the African Union. She called for creating strong partnerships with neighbouring countries, stressing that combating impunity is not incompatible with implementing the Agreement. There are also great challenges ahead for MINUSCA, she said, noting that its mandate for civilian protection remains “topical”. She cautioned politicians against stoking tensions among communities for electoral ends, underscoring the Mission’s important role in organizing the polls.
PAUL DUCLOS (Peru) said recent progress on the political front is encouraging, citing the formation of an inclusive Government and signing of reconciliation agreements at the intercommunal level. The peace accord should lead to improvements in security and relief from the serious humanitarian situation. An Electoral Code should be devised as soon as possible for elections slated for 2020 and 2021, and authorities should work towards gradual decentralization, to position the country for development. Reiterating the importance of fully abiding by the law on parity — the ideal means for women and young people to play a central role in decisions on the type of society to be created — he underscored the need to address the difficulties in redeploying security forces across the country. He welcomed the President’s efforts to establish mixed security units, and called for accelerated progress on disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration, as well as concerted efforts to establish the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission.
ALEXANDER V. REPKIN (Russian Federation) agreed that the peace agreement is an important starting point for the Central African Republic’s recovery. Noting that MINUSCA’s task in the country is far from easy, given the fragile security situation, he pledged the Russian Federation’s ongoing support. There is a need to expand State authority and fight impunity, but the latter should be carefully calibrated. Turning to the practical implementation of mixed units — tasked with securing areas against armed groups — he said their work has the potential to successfully integrate former combatants. The Russian Federation will continue to provide support through outreach activities in the north and north-east of the country, including those aimed at educating the population about the contents of the peace agreement. At the country’s request, Moscow also provides technical support, as well as small quantities of arms and ammunition, free of charge. He also described his country’s distribution of aid through humanitarian convoys; its medical support; its convening of round tables on peace; and its training of military units.
BERIOSKA ILUMINADA MORRISON GONZÁLEZ (Dominican Republic) welcomed the approval of the Central African Republic’s Electoral Code, which she hoped will be promulgated and which includes quotas for women and youth in Government institutions. Urging the armed factions present in the country to lay down their weapons and cease committing violence, she said they should also hand over outstanding lists of their combatants to be considered in disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration programmes. Welcoming consultations being held under the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation framework, she joined other speakers in welcoming the formation of mixed units, made up of Government forces and reintegrated former members of armed groups. Political actors should set aside their differences and view the current moment as an opportunity to advance the Central African Republic’s progress towards stability and lasting peace, she stressed.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia), calling on the international community to increase its support to the Central African Republic, welcomed the progress laid out by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Urging the Council to support the work of regional and subregional organizations on the ground, he emphasized that partnership is key and encouraged regional organizations, the United Nations and other stakeholders to continue to work together in providing support. Noting that MINUSCA’s role is more important than ever, he said the Central African Republic’s security sector reform process — as well as improvements in the rule of law — depends on it. To enhance the Mission’s effectiveness, peacekeepers should work to win the hearts and minds of the local population; he, therefore, underscored the importance of training, negotiation and community engagement. For its part, Indonesia contributes 214 military personnel to MINUSCA, including an engineering company, and is increasing its police contingent contribution to 140 officers, he said.
PIOTR MARCIN ZAWIEJA (Poland) strongly condemned attacks against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, calling on armed groups to immediately end the violence and honour their peace agreement obligations. He also called for constructive engagement in the region, notably by the African Union and ECCAS, as well as neighbouring countries, stressing that the peace agreement process will not be complete without credible elections in 2020 and 2021. The National Assembly meanwhile should swiftly finalize the Electoral Code, respecting the gender parity law, as was decided by the Constitutional Court. The reconciliation process must be allied with the extension of State authority throughout the country, as well as with delivery of basic services. He called on legislative institutions to accelerate political reforms, including laws on decentralization and on the status of former Heads of State, and the bill on political parties. The special mixed security units are an essential element of the peace agreement and he called on armed groups to submit the remaining lists of combatants eligible for disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity to stress the importance of implementing the peace agreement by all signatories. He welcomed that the 14 armed groups have engaged in dialogue with the Government, and that measures have been taken by the President to ensure that the Muslim community participates in ministerial portfolios and that women are also included. He welcomed other measures to implement the peace agreement’s technical electoral commitment, which seeks to bring together local authorities, civil society and armed groups to resolve conflicts. Welcoming that the National Assembly adopted the Electoral Code for 2020 and 2021, as well as the draft elections budget and timeline, he also commended the Government’s cooperation with the African Union, United Nations and European Union. Citing violence against civilians and humanitarians as a major challenge, he strongly condemned violence by anti-Báláka elements, as well as an attack by 3R that led to 39 civilian deaths, including children. Perpetrators must be brought to justice, he said, also expressing regret that over half the population requires assistance and protection.
AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) said ongoing security challenges and the issue of civilian protection remain major sources of concern in her country. “Unfortunately, with the Poaua massacre, we were brought back to reality,” she said, reiterating the Government’s commitment to the February peace agreement. Emphasizing that the armed group signatories also have the obligation to implement what they have signed up to — including ending all acts of violence and the collection of illegal taxes — she welcomed the work of MINUSCA, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and thanked delegations for their support.