The situation in the Central African Republic- Security Council, 8971st Meeting

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22-Feb-2022 02:35:37
Security Council delegates spar over merits of arms embargo in Central African Republic as mission head outlines challenges in run-up to local elections.

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Resource Constraints Offer ‘Recipe for Electoral Violence’, Executive Secretary of International Conference on Great Lakes Region Warns

While slow progress is being made to advance the peace process in the Central African Republic, the new Government, appointed earlier this year, faces a host of formidable challenges, including the resumption of republican dialogue, restoration of State authority and holding of elections for the first time in three decades, the Head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there told the Security Council today as members sparred over the continued imposition of the arms embargo first put in place in 2013.

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), briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2022/119), outlined steps taken to restore stability following the adoption of the Joint Road Map for Peace for the Central African Republic on 16 September  2021.

In that context, he cited the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra on 15 October 2021 and a visit to Bangui on 14 January 2022 by representatives of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). He called on the Government to demonstrate more commitment to stay the course, including through the adoption of follow-up mechanisms and a clear timeline.

On the security front, he noted that while the military had succeeded in restoring State authority in some parts of the country, these efforts had resulted in human rights violations by all parties, including through the excessive use of force, targeting of certain communities in operations, gender-based violence and the recruitment, use, and abuse of children by armed groups, such as the Coalition of Patriots for Change.

Touching on MINUSCA’s proactive role in facilitating the peace process, including by helping to loosen the political deadlock and restoring a climate of trust that resulted in the return of the democratic opposition to the Committee organizing the national dialogues, he pointed out that the process should be revitalized through the complementary role played by the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (known as the Khartoum Accord) and the more recently adopted Joint Road Map.

João Samuel Caholo, Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, enumerated the challenges hampering Government efforts to implement the Joint Road Map, including financial constraints. Delayed salaries discourage civil servants, including military personnel, and slowed implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation processes. He also expressed concern that resource constraints stood in the way of holding inclusive and credible municipal, regional and senatorial elections, slated to be held on 11 September 2022, for the first time in three decades. “This is a recipe for political and electoral violence arising from disputed results,” he stressed.

In a similar vein, Bertino Matias Matondo, African Union Special Representative and Head of the African Union Office in the Central African Republic, emphasized the need to address financing challenges around holding the republican dialogue. He expressed alarm about human rights violations in some regions, where military operations are taking place, and underscored the need to bring perpetrators to justice.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members took note of encouraging steps taken towards restoring peace and stability and welcomed ICGLR efforts to this end. Many speakers expressed concern about clashes between the military and armed groups and their splinter factions, which continued unabated despite the unilateral ceasefire, resulting in displacement and grave human rights violations. Differences emerged, however, around the imposition of the arms embargo, which some countries said impeded the country’s ability to re-establish State control.

Other Council members, however, disagreed, including the representative of the United States, who pointed out that the arms embargo cannot be lifted, as forces referred to as “other security personnel” perpetrated 40 per cent of all documented violations during the last reporting period. In particular, she took aim at the activities of the Wagner Group, which, alongside the Central African armed forces had committed 17 status-of-forces agreement violations over the past four months, she said, calling such actions “simply unacceptable”.

Echoing these points, the United Kingdom’s representative said the Wagner Group plays “a destabilizing role in the country” and undermines the work of MINUSCA. He expressed concern about the indiscriminate killings of unarmed civilians and targeting of Fulani and Muslim communities by the Group, alongside the military, denouncing the targeting of humanitarian personnel and denial of humanitarian access, amid ever-increasing needs.

The representative of Gabon, also speaking for Kenya and Ghana, invited all political classes to reject military solutions in laying the foundation for stability in the subregion. While noting that municipal elections are an opportunity for reviving democracy, he observed that current security conditions make it difficult to hold elections safely. Condemning attacks by armed groups, he called for their funding sources to be cut and for perpetrators to be held accountable. Further, the arms embargo against the Central African Republic must be lifted to bolster the State’s ability to protect its territory.

The representative of the Russian Federation took issue with what she characterized as a campaign to discredit the activities of Russian instructors, which she called “bewildering” as they are in the country at the request of Government authorities. Recalling her country’s abstention from voting on resolution 2605 (2021), on the extension of MINUSCA’s mandate, she said this action signaled the need for the Mission to overcome its shortcomings by ensuring proper cooperation with Bangui authorities. Stressing that the Mission cannot replace efforts by national authorities in restoring peace and protecting civilians, she pointed out that such a task is impeded by the arms embargo.

Rounding out the discussion, the Central African Republic’s, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans abroad, Sylvie Valerie Baipo-Temon, outlined the “courageous” steps taken by the Government to implement the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and the Joint Road Map — first among them, the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire. She also pointed to the suspension of certain criminal prosecutions, acceleration of the republican dialogue and preparation for the municipal elections.

She also pointed out that steps are being taken towards accountability, with perpetrators of attacks being tried in court and the Special Criminal Court opening for cases in March. Against that backdrop, she called for the complete lifting of the arms embargoes against her country, describing them as unfair and ineffective. The Mission must become more effective in meeting its needs, including by training the national defence security forces.

Ahead of the meeting, the representative of the Russian Federation, Council President for February, spoke in remembrance of Vitaly Churkin, a long-serving Permanent Representative of the country to the United Nations, who died on 20 February four years ago. His tribute remarks were followed by those of the representatives of the United Arab Emirates and India, who both expressed respect for Mr. Churkin’s diplomatic skills and ability to elicit widespread admiration, warmth and respect, while defending his national interests.

Also speaking were representatives of France, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Norway, India, Brazil, Ireland, and China.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:41 p.m.

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