Addressing the Security Council yesterday on the Central African Republic, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, warned that the increased intensity of attacks on civilians and peacekeepers risks bringing us rapidly to a tipping point, which ‘we must forestall at all cost’.
He was referring to the worsening security and humanitarian situation in Bangassou, in the south-east part of the country, where three peacekeepers were killed since last Sunday when they came under attack by self-defence groups affiliated to anti-Balaka while trying to secure access to water sources for the 2,000 displaced civilians.
Mr. Lacroix also raised serious concerns about the deterioration of the security situation in the border town of Zemio, 290 km east of Bangassou, with the risk of further clashes between the Muslim community and elements affiliated with anti-Balaka, which had already led to the displacement of more than 22,000 civilians. He also mentioned that the security situation in the town of Bria, in the north of the country, remains fragile and that the departure of the Ugandan and American forces from the eastern part of the country this spring has created a vacuum leading to the emergence of hostile ‘self-defence’ groups.
He also drew attention to the worsening humanitarian situation. Since last year, the number of internally displaced persons has increased by almost 40 percent while, at the same time, attacks against humanitarian personnel, convoys and infrastructure have intensified.
Mr. Lacroix noted that this violence is taking place against the backdrop of sustained fighting in the south-east of the country, heightened inter-ethnic tensions and efforts by spoilers to manipulate communities along religious lines and undermine the stabilization process in the country.
Mr. Lacroix updated the Council on the robust posture taken by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and its efforts to reinforce Bangassou through re-deployments of additional peacekeepers in order to stabilize the situation, stop the attacks on internally displaced persons, enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and address the threat of the anti-Balaka affiliated groups.
However, Mr. Lacroix stressed yet again that a military solution to the problem of the armed groups will not suffice to address the root causes of the conflict. The absence of tangible progress in the peace process risks further worsening the situation. He emphasised the importance of operationalizing the July 17 roadmap by the members of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and underlined the importance of prioritising the implementation of the ceasefire agreed upon in the Rome agreement of 20 June. He reiterated the UN's commitment to support the mediation efforts by the African Initiative in line with MINUSCA's mandate.
He also pressed the Council to put the Central African authorities before their responsibility to foster national reconciliation and protect and serve all Central Africans, including minorities, while welcoming the Council’s readiness to impose sanctions on spoilers.
MINUSCA continues to support the Government to advance national reconciliation and is intensifying political advocacy by mobilizing local, traditional, religious and national authorities to counter incendiary speech and advocate for all Central Africans to contribute to prevent the situation from relapsing. In the last weeks, the Mission has undertaken a series of visits with the national authorities to Bangassou and Zemio to promote reconciliation.
Mr. Lacroix finally paid tribute to the 13 peacekeepers who lost their lives since the beginning of the year as a result of attacks against them, including nine in Bangassou and surroundings alone.
Mr. Lacroix is heading over the weekend to the Central African Republic to convey a message of support to MINUSCA and engage with the national authorities.