Much Work Needed to Stabilize Central African Republic Situation, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council
Permanent Representative Says Peacekeepers Alone Cannot Ensure Civilian Protection, Urging Priority Training for National Troops
While the United Nations presence in the Central African Republic has achieved some of its immediate goals – preventing a return to civil war and stopping a coup d’état – much work is needed to stabilize the country’s security situation, combat armed groups and support millions in need of humanitarian assistance, the Organization’s senior official told the Security Council today.
“Clearly our work is not yet over,” said 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), as the Council heard several high-level briefings.
Noting that much has been achieved since the Mission was established in 2014, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said that security has improved considerably, and State authority has been restored in many areas not previously under Government control. Emphasizing that the country must now move from a phase of containment to one of transformation, he said MINUSCA should focus on helping to implement the African Union-led road map known as the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation.
Bedializoun Moussa Nebie, Special Representative of the African Union in the Central African Republic, said partners have made significant advances towards accelerating the African Initiative since his last briefing to the Council in June. The Government and 14 armed groups have agreed to take part, he noted, adding that the “Group of Five” (G5) Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – have also demonstrated strong support for the Government and the peace plan. The stakes are high, he said, stressing that success will depend on strong Security Council support for dialogue and for the actors on the ground.
Koen Vervaeke of the European Union delegation said that the situation in the Central African Republic, still characterized by fragility and instability, constitutes a protracted humanitarian crisis. The situation is entering a critical phase, he added, reiterating the European Union’s support for the African Initiative and for the leadership of President Faustin Archange Touadéra. Stressing that all negotiations must be “people-centred and home-grown”, he welcomed the decision by the United Nations and the African Union to appoint a joint envoy to the Central African Republic.
Leon Houadja Kacou Adom (Côte d’Ivoire), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 concerning the Central African Republic, said that a 7 September briefing by the Committee’s Panel of Experts allowed participants to exchange ideas on how to enhance regional cooperation in countering violations of the arms embargo imposed on the Central African Republic, addressing cross-border arms trafficking and ending the exploitation of natural resources by armed groups. Describing his own visit to Central African Republic, he said national authorities called for the lifting of the arms embargo, which, they said, is failing to prevent non-State groups from receiving weapons and ammunition.
Council members took the floor following those briefings, expressing concern over the continued violence and instability, as well as the Government’s difficulties in extending State authority across the vast national territory. Many also voiced support for efforts to implement the African Initiative, the preparations for dialogue with more than a dozen armed groups, and the opening of the Central African Republic’s new Special Criminal Court on 22 October.
The representative of the United States said that, while the official opening of investigations by the Special Criminal Court marks an important step, many challenges remain, including last week’s kidnapping of United Nations police officers. In order for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation to succeed, all actors must commit to full transparency and cooperation, he added.
France’s delegate, emphasizing that continued violence against civilians, blue helmets and humanitarian workers in the Central African Republic is unacceptable, said that restoring justice, disarming armed groups and ensuring economic recovery must now be the top priorities. The progress achieved on the political front demonstrates that peace is indeed possible, he said, underlining that the African Initiative is the only framework for peace and urging all stakeholders to support it.
Equatorial Guinea’s representative joined other speakers in calling on all armed groups in the Central African Republic to lay down their weapons. Underlining the fragility of the country’s political and humanitarian situation, he called for an integrated, sustainable solution going beyond security issues. Emphasizing the need to address the needs of victims of sexual crimes perpetrated by armed groups, he said other crucial elements of the peace process include national ownership, full regional participation and the primacy of the African Initiative.
The representative of the Central African Republic agreed with other speakers that more must be done to help her country progress down the path of peace and reconciliation. Joint efforts on the part of the various actors are helping to rid the country of threats, she said, expressing hope that the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate – and changes to render it more robust – will help to achieve a real, lasting solution to the crisis. However, MINUSCA cannot ensure the lasting protection of civilians across the entire country by itself, she warned, stressing that training national troops must, therefore, be a top priority.
Also speaking today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, China, Peru, United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Netherlands, Kuwait, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden and Bolivia.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:25 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), said much has been achieved since the Mission was established in 2014. Detailing several core elements of its mandate - including the protection of civilians, assisting the country’s transition and preserving its territorial integrity - he expressed hope that, despite persistent challenges, the foundations for lasting peace have now been laid. “Clearly our work is not yet over,” he pointed out. While MINUSCA’s initial critical tasks have been achieved – including preventing a return to the dark days of civil war and averting a coup d’état – violent attacks against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers continue and nearly 3 million people still need humanitarian assistance, he said, noting that the Mission continues to prevent atrocities on a daily basis. However, security has also improved considerably, and State authority has been restored in many areas not previously under Government control, he continued. A process of disarming and reintegrating members of several armed groups in the west of the country will begin before the end of the year. Moreover, a peace process is now being undertaken under the auspices of the African Union, he added, noting that half of the nearly $2.2 billion promised by donors for rebuilding infrastructure and related projects has now been disbursed.
He went on to state that the Central African Republic must now move from a phase of containment to one of transformation. The recommendations of the independent comprehensive review led by Juan Gabriel Valdes – endorsed by the Secretary-General and recently presented to troop- and police-contributing countries – identified several critical next steps for MINUSCA. In the context of the renewal of its mandate, the Mission should focus on helping the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation to succeed, he said, adding that he has held already a series of strategic meetings and consultations with the African Initiative Panel of Facilitators and the Government in preparation for the launch of a dialogue between the latter and armed groups. “The path forward towards peace and reconciliation will not be an easy one,” he stressed, urging the international community to work with the Government to ensure that the process remains people-centred and does not falter. “We must be realistic” and ensure that all negotiations are entered into in good faith. The parties must be willing to make some challenging compromises, he noted, underlining that the peace agreement must also have the buy-in of the Central African Republic’s people, and that security conditions conducive to dialogue – and the enforcement of its outcomes – must be put in place.
Asking the Council to ensure that deployed troops are properly trained and equipped to meet those tasks, he said MINUSCA should also work to strengthen the rule of law and eliminate ungoverned spaces. In addition, the Mission must work hand-in-hand with the Government of the Central African Republic to promote a culture of democracy in which power is granted by the ballot box, not the bullet, he continued. The upcoming elections represent an important opportunity in that regard, while also offering a chance to build a culture of inclusion. Calling for continued support for the Government’s fight against impunity, and for the restoration of the rule of law – especially the realization of the Special Criminal Court – he underscored the need to advance the national reconciliation programme and ensure respect for the rights of victims, including the hundreds of thousands of Central Africans displaced by the conflict. In conclusion, he said, MINUSCA should redouble its efforts to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the 2.9 million Central Africans in need.
BEDIALIZOUN MOUSSA NEBIE, Special Representative of the African Union to the Central African Republic, said the African Initiative has made significant advances since his last briefing to the Council in June, with the Facilitation Panel working at an accelerated pace to prepare for the upcoming dialogue. Government participation in the talks has been determined and 14 armed groups have taken part in preparation modules, as have other participants. A variety of eminent persons have lent their support and have all urged the Central African people to take ownership of the process, he said.
He went on to note that the demands of armed groups have been solicited and submitted to the Government, and the actual invitation to the upcoming dialogue has been issued. Members of the G5 Sahel have all been demonstrating strong support for stability in the Central African Republic and the steps that must be taken to achieve it. However, the stakes are high, he said, stressing that success will depend on strong Security Council support for the dialogue and the actors on the ground, all of whom have high hopes for the outcome. The Central Africans have suffered enough, and it is time to work together to consolidate peace, he said.
KOEN VERVAEKE, European Union delegation, said that the situation in the Central African Republic, characterized by fragility and instability, constitutes a protracted humanitarian crisis. He called for a clear road map to consolidate democratic institutions, pursue security-sector reform, combat impunity and establish transitional justice mechanisms. The situation is entering a critical phase, he noted, while also reiterating the European Union’s full support for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation under the auspices of the African Union, and for the leadership of President Faustin Archange Touadéra. All regional and international partners must support these efforts in a properly coordinated and fully transparent manner, he continued, emphasizing the need for rapid progress. Welcoming President Touadéra’s intention to launch negotiations with armed groups, he said that effort must be “people-centred and home-grown”. While welcoming the decision by the United Nations and the African Union to appoint a joint envoy to the Central African Republic, he emphasized that MINUSCA’s role remains essential to stabilization efforts.
The Mission must continue to support efforts to strengthen and expand State authority, he continued, cautioning: “This won’t be achieved without a further build-up and deployment of security forces.” MINUSCA can also provide operational and logistical support to the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), he added. The European Union will continue its substantial engagement in the field of security, including through its military training mission, he said, noting that its mandate has been extended until 2020. The European Union mission successfully trained a third FACA battalion and is facilitating the redeployment of the armed forces while also helping implementation of the national defence plan in Bouar, he said. The European Union training mission’s work with the armed forces must be unhindered in order to fulfil its mandate, he stressed, pointing out that the regional bloc also supports civilian security forces, he said, citing assistance provided to the Ministry of the Interior, as well as to the police and gendarmerie. The European Union “will continue helping [the Central African Republic] by strengthening the resilience of the population and of the State”, he added.
LÉON HOUADJA KACOU ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 concerning the Central African Republic, noted that the security situation in that country has remained volatile with a marked deterioration in the humanitarian situation and continued attacks against civilians. The Committee has advanced its close cooperation with the national authorities, and regional and neighbouring States to strengthen the implementation of sanctions measures. On 7 September, he recalled, the Committee convened a briefing for all Member States, including the Central African Republic, to discuss the midterm report of the Panel of Experts. The deliberations proved of great value, providing the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to enhance regional cooperation in countering violations of the arms embargo, as well as addressing cross-border arms trafficking and the exploitation of natural resources by armed groups.
He added that the root causes of the conflict in the Central African Republic cannot be addressed without the close involvement of neighbouring and regional States, he stressed. He went on to commend the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), noting that it has provided training to the Central African Republic Armed Forces and internal security services on the safe and effective management of weapons and ammunition. It is important that the international community continue to accompany the authorities in ensuring effective management of weapons and ammunition, which is essential in countering the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country, he said. On the freezing of assets, he said the Panel of Experts reiterates in its midterm report that authorities have yet to freeze the accounts and halt the payment of salaries to sanctioned individuals. Recalling his visit to the Central African Republic, he said the national authorities unanimously called for the lifting of the arms embargo, saying it only affects the Government but does not prevent armed groups from receiving weapons and ammunition.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), emphasizing that continued violence against civilians, blue helmets and humanitarian workers in the Central African Republic is unacceptable, reiterated his delegation’s support for President Touadéra efforts to promote reconciliation and re-establish State authority throughout the country. Restoring justice, disarming armed groups and economic recovery must be priorities now, he said, stressing that the armed groups must immediately lay down their arms and participate in the peace process. Beginning to prosecute serious crimes is also an important step, he added. The progress achieved on the political front demonstrates that peace is indeed possible, he said, underlining that the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation is the only framework for peace and all stakeholders must support it. The priority now is to hold dialogue towards an overall agreement and to deal with impunity, he said, emphasizing that the dialogue must be inclusive, particularly of women. Reaffirming his delegation’s full support for MINUSCA and its leadership, he called for the Council’s unified support for the Mission, while underlining the importance of training its contingents and ending abuses. The Mission’s work must be integrated into the African Initiative and provide logistical support for the Central African Armed Forces as they re-establish State authority and undergo reform, he said, adding that France will submit a draft resolution seeking the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate in the coming days.
Mr. ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the progress made, while emphasizing that many challenges remain, and that dialogue is critical to confronting them. Recurring attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers remain the subject of serious concern, he said, underlining the need to restore national authority in all areas on the basis of joint deployment of the national armed forces and MINUSCA. Urging continued support for the European Union training mission, he also paid tribute to all humanitarian workers, particularly those who have lost their lives in the country and praised the work of MINUSCA and its leadership. The Central African Republic’s partners should step up their support for humanitarian assistance, he said, pledging his own country’s continued support for United Nations efforts in support of peace and stability, and calling for cooperation among all regional actors to that end.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), condemning violence, expressed condolences to victims and their families, emphasizing that no effort should be spared in supporting efforts by the national authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. Calling upon all armed groups to lay down their arms, he emphasized that only a negotiated process will bring justice and stability. He welcomed recent affirmations of support for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation – including those from MINUSCA and bilateral partners – and for local reconciliation processes. Noting the fragility of the political and humanitarian situation, he called for an integrated, sustainable solution to the country’s problems beyond security issues, emphasizing that, with sexual violence by armed groups a particular concern, a national strategy must be put in place to end it. Victims must receive assistance from the United Nations, he added. Other crucial elements of the peace process include national ownership, full regional participation and the primacy of the African Initiative, he stressed. Equatorial Guinea supports the extension of MINUSCA’s mandate for another year, he said, suggesting that the Council visit the Central African Republic soon.
WU HAITAO (China) called for deployment of the national security forces throughout the Central African Republic and for the resolution of all conflict through dialogue, while ensuring respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He called upon the Secretariat to improve MINUSCA’s effectiveness before the extension of its mandate and appealed to regional States and organizations to increase their cooperation with a view to ensuring that stability is restored and to help in addressing the root causes of the conflict.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed concern over the Central African Republic’s persistent crisis, noting that it continues in spite of significant national and international efforts. The country’s challenges are due, among other things, to State weakness, illegal trafficking of weapons and inter-ethnic violence, he said, adding that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons continues to grow and that more than over half the population now requires humanitarian assistance. MINUSCA must support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and the holding of elections in 2020 and 2021, he said, adding that it should also protect civilians and support efforts to bolster the security sector, in cooperation with the African Union. Emphasizing the importance of support from neighbouring and regional countries - especially to strengthen border controls and end the smuggling of weapons, natural resources and people - he said the Mission should also contribute to the establishment of a commission for truth, justice and national reconciliation intended to address the grievances of victims of sexual violence, children formerly recruited by armed groups and others.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) recalled that the Council increased MINUSCA’s troop ceiling by 900 military personnel one year ago, and since then, notable progress has been made in restoring State authority and improving the daily lives of many Central Africans. The official opening of investigations by the country’s Special Criminal Court marks another important step, he added. However, many challenges remain, including last week’s kidnapping of United Nations police officers, he recalled. In order for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation to succeed, all actors must commit to full transparency and cooperation, he stressed. Recalling that previous peace agreements have achieved no tangible results, he said the United States is working closely to lend support, adding that his delegation will consider recent recommendations to alter MINUSCA’s mandate. Whatever is agreed during the next mandate renewal must be based on past lessons learned and aimed at ensuring that the people of the Central African Republic have a brighter future, he said.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), welcoming the positive signals in the Central African Republic, said “the international community must not relax its efforts” to help it become a peaceful, stable and successful country. Noting that peacekeepers and civilians continue to be attacked and that more than half the population requires humanitarian assistance, he said the United Kingdom has provided some $81 million in assistance since 2015, with the aim of restoring stability and supporting the population. Emphasizing the need to avoid parallel peace initiatives - which can cause confusion or worse – he called for greater United Nations involvement to help that process succeed. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Mission be more directly engaged in the peace process, he also commended his plan to establish a performance-management mechanism for MINUSCA. He concluded by emphasizing that perpetrators of serious crimes must not enjoy impunity, expressing hope that the opening of the Special Criminal Court yesterday will translate to stronger rule of law and greater stability.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said the African Initiative remains the principle framework for the peace process in the Central African Republic. Emphasizing the importance of harmonizing all peace initiatives in the country, he welcomed the decision to nominate a prominent figure as guarantor of the peace process and highlighted the important role that Sudan should play in the process. He called for comprehensive strategic communications and outreach with the aim of informing the population about the peace process and acknowledged the Government’s efforts to extend State authority throughout the country. He also called greater international support for those efforts, especially in light of attacks by armed groups against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. All international actions to stabilize the country must be complemented by efforts to address the root causes of the conflict through greater investments in the economy, he said.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) emphasized the importance of strong national ownership in building momentum for dialogue within the framework of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation. In that context, she called for closer coordination among all actors and expressed support for the appointment of a joint special envoy of the African Union and the United Nations, who could serve as a guarantor of the peace process on the ground and help to expedite the peace and reconciliation processes. Affirming that the role of MINUSCA remains indispensable, she condemned attacks against the Mission and called for strengthening its operations by implementing the recommendations of the recent strategic review.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) expressed her delegation’s full support for the African Initiative as the only framework for negotiations, adding that all stakeholders must accelerate their efforts in support of peace. She called on all armed groups to lay down their weapons, on the Government to ensure inclusive elections and on MINUSCA to strengthen its coordinating role. She also affirmed the need for the Mission to strengthen its civilian-protection capacity, for which purpose it should increase its mobility. MINUSCA has an important role to play in strengthening the national armed forces while exercising due diligence in securing adherence to human rights principles. The crucial importance of the African Initiative’s success for the country’s future must be impressed upon all actors, she stressed.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) recalling the progress he witnessed during the Security Council visiting mission to the Central African Republic, expressed serious concern, however, over continuing attacks by armed groups against civilians, many of whom are Muslims. Kuwait supports Government efforts to end such attacks and to counter the hate speech that helps to fuel it, he said. Noting the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis, in the Central African Republic, he said the country is now a priority target for stepped-up international assistance. He went on to applaud the European training mission and welcomed local reconciliation efforts. Describing MINUSCA as essential to progress, he signalled his delegation’s support for extending its mandate, which should also be expanded to include electoral support and assistance in security-sector reform.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the African Union Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation remains the main framework for resolving the crisis in the Central African Republic. The political process must involve all political, social and ethnic groups and be characterized by the participation of women, she added. “It is also necessary to rebuild the political, administrative and judicial structures,” he said, adding that links between justice and the peace process have “critical meaning”. Emphasizing that the elections planned for 2020-2021 must provide the necessary impulse in the implementation of transitional justice and the extension of State authority, she welcomed the redeployment of European Union-trained Central African Armed Forces battalions and called upon international partners providing assistance to conduct their work in a transparent manner. MINUSCA must continue to support political processes, protect civilians and ensure a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, she said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) echoed concerns about continuing instability in the Central African Republic, noting that much of its territory is still controlled by armed groups. Expressing support for MINUSCA’s work, he said the Mission faces a challenging task given the country’s size and the high number of armed groups. The Russian Federation will support efforts by the Government and other partners to help normalize the situation, with a focus on implementing the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and the Libreville Roadmap of 2017, he affirmed. Welcoming recent negotiations - which involved representatives of 14 armed groups – he said dialogue will be a critical part of efforts to end intercommunal violence. Expressing support for efforts to harmonize peace initiatives and avoid competition among them, he said the agreement reached in Khartoum aligns closely with the work of the Central African Republic Government itself. “We need African solutions for African problems,” he stressed, calling on the Council to provide material and moral support to region-led peace agreements. The Russian Federation will increase its humanitarian assistance to the country, including by providing medical services to the population, he said, expressing hope that Moscow’s support will “stop arousing jealousy” among other Council members.
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden), while welcoming the proposal to appoint a special envoy to lead the peace initiative in the Central African Republic, emphasized that the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation must become more inclusive, with greater participation by women and civil society. Given the volatile security situation, MINUSCA must be able to exercise its civilian-protection mandate effectively he said, highlighting the importance of enhanced early-warning and early-action capabilities. Expressing support for the recommendation that MINUSCA provide logistical support to national defence and security forces, he said a formal monitoring process should be put in place to ensure that the Mission’s support is in full compliance with the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence policy. Sweden notes with concern that nine new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse have been recorded, he said. Stressing that transitional justice will be critical in peacebuilding efforts, he welcomed the progress made in establishing the Special Criminal Court.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, noting the continuation of violence in the Central African Republic and encouraging all stakeholders to support progress in disarming and reintegrating armed cadres. For the success of all such programmes, international and subregional partnerships are critical, he said, adding that MINUSCA’s new mandate must, therefore, emphasize coordination of all stakeholders, as well as national ownership, while providing support for the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and all related processes. It should also support local and national reconciliation efforts, he added. Commending the efforts of the African Initiative Facilitation Panel and regional organizations, he stressed, however, that only the Central Africans themselves must bear responsibility for their country’s peace and stability.
AMBROISINE KPONGO (Central African Republic) said the briefings delivered today reveal that much work remains to help her country progress down the path of peace and reconciliation. That said, however, joint efforts by various actors are helping to rid the country of ongoing threats, she said, expressing hope that the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate will help to achieve a real, lasting solution to the crisis. She expressed support for the recommendation to endow MINUSCA with a more robust mandate and thanked the international community for its continued support. She went on to state that the Government has, in every possible way, cooperated with its partners and with MINUSCA in implementing the security and stability strategy, but results so far have been inadequate. Emphasizing that MINUSCA, by itself, cannot ensure the lasting protection of civilians across the entire country, she said that training national troops must, therefore, be a top priority. However, the country does not yet have the resources it needs for that purpose. She went on to call for tangible military pressure - adapted to the circumstances on the ground - to check the spread of armed groups’ influence. Meanwhile, the Mission must be provided with appropriate resources to allow it to “do what is necessary” in helping to establish peace and security in the Central African Republic.