Significant Resources Needed to Help Central African Republic Maintain Hard-Won Stability, Country’s President Tells Security Council
7901st Meeting (PM)
United Nations Mission’s Engagement Instrumental in Helping Restore State Authority, Widen Peace Process, Peacekeeping Chief Says
The President of the Central African Republic briefed the Security Council today on the latest developments in his country, detailing a national reconciliation plan to expand his authority and move the nation towards rebuilding its security sector, restoring justice and reaching out to armed groups.
President Faustin Archange Touadera said the United Nations continued to provide support to his country during its post-election period and commended the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for protecting civilians throughout the territory.
After years of crisis, security was essential and significant resources were still needed to help the country develop its security sector, he said, underscoring the importance of having a sufficient number of troops deployed on the ground at any given time. The international community and neighbouring countries had already provided invaluable support, committing funds to recruit 500 police and law enforcement agents, as well as training and assisting them.
He expressed concern, however, that Central African Republic forces had not been provided with the necessary logistical and military equipment. There were 8,000 military troops who had not been trained or equipped to serve on the ground. Given the fighting among armed groups, it was more important than ever to set up national forces that would protect civilians and identify how the Mission could be strengthened.
He also expressed concern over the pace of training led by the European Union mission. “The training takes a long time, and in the short term, that means we do not have enough security,” he said, urging the Security Council to determine a more effective way to train and mobilize troops.
In that context, he emphasized the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with all parties, noting that 14 armed groups would be represented at an upcoming national meeting. He looked forward to discussing the calls for his Government to grant amnesty to perpetrators of atrocities and remained open to an exchange of ideas, but reiterated that the national justice system would do its part to ensure accountability. “People have suffered too much during this crisis and are rightfully calling for justice,” he said.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that together with its partners, the United Nations had supported Central African authorities in developing coordinated plans to promote community dialogue and social cohesion, revive the local economy and improve access to education and health care.
Disarmament would require entering into a broad agreement that responded to the grievances of armed groups and the population alike, he said. A secure environment and an eminently political endeavour that addressed armed group demands, the priorities of the population and regional support were also needed. While acknowledging the President’s determination to engage in a dialogue with armed groups, he underscored the importance of listening to the Central African people, particularly the victims of the conflict, as the dialogue advanced.
He also urged donors to honour the $2.2 billion in pledges without delay, stressing that recovery initiatives must go hand in hand with efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation.
Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that body would intensify its coordination with the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank, under the leadership of Central African authorities, to implement the recovery plan. It intended to make the Central African Republic a model of success, particularly for the concept of sustaining peace. Indeed, the main elements for sustaining peace were in place. National authorities were responsible for identifying and translating Government priorities into strategy, thereby leading to national recovery.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers reiterated their support to President Touadera, with Ethiopia’s delegate emphasizing that the President could not have been clearer in communicating the complex challenges in restoring peace. “You are on the right track,” added France’s delegate, while recalling that the process was not yet complete.
Council Members stressed that while the Central African Republic had made significant progress over the past year, efforts could be undermined by the lack of appropriate financial support, technical training and equipment. Senegal’s delegate stressed that internal mobilization was simply not enough; there must also be active regional and subregional support. The Government was being pulled in all directions and the challenges facing it were daunting. He underscored the need to pool regional efforts and support the Government’s policies.
Several speakers, while welcoming the President’s efforts to reform the security, justice and public sectors, expressed concern over the dire humanitarian situation. Kazakhstan’s representative stressed that some 2 million Central Africans still depended on humanitarian assistance, while Uruguay’s delegate supported urgent action to help those suffering from severe food insecurity. He also condemned violence by armed groups that had sacrificed the lives of innocent people.
More broadly, Council members welcomed the President’s initiative to hold a comprehensive dialogue with armed groups. The United States representative said that while she understood the need to hold perpetrators accountable, armed actors must understand that their future hinged on becoming productive and responsible members of society. Armed group members were often unwilling to disarm until they knew they could have a say at the table, she added.
Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, China, Russian Federation, Japan, Italy, Ukraine, Sweden, Bolivia and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.
FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, President of the Central African Republic, said today’s meeting was an opportunity to update the Council on the changing political and security situation in his country. The United Nations continued to provide support in the post-election period and various national reconciliation efforts were under way to ensure a return to peace. He emphasized the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with all parties, noting that 14 armed groups would be represented at an upcoming national meeting. Nonetheless, the Central African Republic required significant resources as it worked with its partners to develop a recovery and peace framework.
The fundamental goals of rebuilding peace must go hand in hand with economic recovery, he continued. Commending the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for protecting civilians, he said the military action under way in Bambari was an exception, and did not take away from the dialogue aimed at finding a lasting solution. The international community and neighbouring countries also had provided invaluable support, committing funds to recruit 500 police and law enforcement agents, as well as training and assisting them.
He expressed concern, however, over the pace of training led by the European Union mission. “The training takes a long time, and in the short term, that means we do not have enough security,” he said, urging the Security Council to determine a more effective way to train and mobilize troops. He also expressed concern that Central African Republic forces had not been provided with the necessary logistical and military equipment, stressing that there were 8,000 military troops who had not been trained or equipped to serve on the ground. After years of crisis, security was essential and it required the deployment of a sufficient number of troops. Given the ongoing conflict between armed groups, it was more important than ever to set up national forces that would protect civilians and identify how the Mission could be strengthened.
Regarding calls for the Central African Republic to grant amnesty to perpetrators of atrocities, he said he looked forward to discussions on that matter and remained open to an exchange of ideas, but also reiterated that the national justice system would do its part to ensure accountability. “People have suffered too much during this crisis and are rightfully calling for justice,” he said. Still, the humanitarian situation remained dire and he called for more international resources. Despite the difficult times, partnerships remained strong. Recent visits by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had demonstrated the continued international solidarity with the country. “People are tired of crime perpetrated by armed groups,” he said, adding that while progress might be slow, it was on the right track. With the Mission’s support, the Government would redouble efforts to rebuild the public, private and civil society.
HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since his last briefing on 15 February, concerted political and operational engagement by MINUSCA had been instrumental in helping to restore State authority. The Mission had twice used its air assets to prevent advances by the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), and had facilitated the departure from Bambari of the leader of the Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique and other armed commanders. It also had apprehended three leaders of the FPRC-led coalition in Bambari who had since been formally charged by national judicial authorities on a number of counts.
MINUSCA had assumed full control of security in Bambari, having fended off armed group elements trying to take the town by force, he said. Its presence was intended to help stabilize the town and pave the way for the gradual restoration of State authority. Together with development partners, the United Nations supported Central African authorities in developing coordinated plans to promote community dialogue and social cohesion, revive the local economy and improve access to education and health care.
The security and operational efforts in Bambari had yielded a further dividend by widening the political process, he said, noting that both sides had agreed to designate representatives to the Consultative and Follow-up Committee on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation led by the President. Disarmament would require entering a broad agreement that responded to the grievances of armed groups and the population alike. A secure environment and an eminently political endeavour that addressed armed group demands, the priorities of the population and regional support were also needed.
While acknowledging the President’s determination to engage in a comprehensive dialogue with the armed groups, he underscored the importance of listening to the Central African people, particularly the victims of the conflict, as the dialogue advanced. It was critical to preserve the outcomes and recommendations of the Bangui Forum by addressing the imperatives for justice and reconciliation in full respect of people’s expectations. He commended the solidarity shown by the international community, which had pledged more than $2.2 billion at the Brussels Conference. He urged donors to honour those pledges without delay so that development could rapidly accelerate. Recovery initiatives must go hand in hand with efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation, he said, stressing that 2.2 million people were in need of assistance or were food insecure.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said its members had met this morning and reiterated to the Head of State their firm and constant commitment to continuing fruitful collaboration with the Government. The configuration would intensify coordination and collaboration with the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank, under the leadership of the Central African authorities, to implement the recovery plan. That would be done through a three-part approach: first, the United Nations would focus on supporting peace, security and reconciliation; the European Union would then focus on renewal of the social contract between the people and the Government; and finally, the World Bank would focus on promoting economic recovery and boosting productive sectors.
In proposing that work programme for the coming months, the configuration had committed to an ambitious goal, he continued. It consisted of making the Central African Republic one model of success for the United Nations and for peacebuilding in general, and particularly for the concept of sustaining peace. Indeed, the main elements necessary for sustaining peace were present in the Central African Republic. The national authorities were responsible for identifying and translating Government priorities into strategy, thereby leading to a national recovery and peacebuilding plan. In terms of advocacy, coordination of efforts and platform, the Peacebuilding Commission brought various actors together, he noted, commending also efforts of neighbouring countries to maintain constant engagement with the Central African Republic, as well as their recent mediation initiative involving the African Union.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Government of the Central African Republic had been successful in stabilizing the country. “You are on the right track,” he said, while recalling that the process was not yet complete. Many challenges remained amid ongoing combat among armed groups. The democratically elected President had positioned himself to achieve reconciliation and reform State institutions, he said, adding that he had spared no effort to build and sustain peace in the country. One example was the establishment of the platform for dialogue and mixed armed forces. Commending work carried out by MINUSCA, he said the Mission had established credibility for the peace process.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), acknowledging the challenges faced by the Central African Republic, commended the determination of its people. “We are at a critical juncture to overcome violence and recurring crisis since the country’s independence,” he said, emphasizing that the priority must be to achieve national reconciliation. For its part, the international community must support Government efforts to restore the social fabric and address grievances. In that regard, he welcomed mediation initiatives by the African Union, noting that without such support it would be impossible to make progress.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said it was important to deliver on pledges to help rebuild the Central African Republic. Expressing support for the President’s plan to extend his authority to build institutions and disarm armed groups, she said the United States was committed to helping the country train its security forces. Disarmament, reconciliation and reintegration could only be achieved in line with security sector reform. While she understood the need to hold perpetrators accountable, she emphasized that armed actors must understand that their future hinged on becoming productive and responsible members of society. Armed group members were often unwilling to disarm until they knew that they could have a say at the table. Professional security forces, representative of all ethnic groups, were critical to rebuilding the country. MINUSCA, operating in some of the most fragile areas, had laid the foundation for partnerships and she commended the Mission for its protection of civilians. While progress had been made to hold perpetrators of sexual abuse to account, more must be done.
WU HAITAO (China) said that while the Central African Republic was pressing ahead with security sector reform and working to restore national unity, the security situation “had a long way to go”. Challenges to durable peace and stability persisted. The President’s dialogue with armed groups presented an important opportunity to reach peace, stability and development. The international community must support the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations in enhancing coordination with the Central African Government. Stressing that MINUSCA had played an important role in maintaining stability in the country, he said China stood ready to make renewed contributions to reconciliation initiatives in the Central African Republic.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the situation in the Central African Republic remained shaky amid continuing religious and ethnic violence, widespread crime, and absent or failing Government entities. Amid the ongoing battles, MINUSCA was carrying out an important task and playing a stabilizing role. However, its efforts alone would not be sufficient, he said, calling upon concerned parties to help in building national capacities. Establishing the long-awaited special criminal court would not cure the country’s problems, he emphasized, cautioning that the situation remained fragile. Commending regional efforts, particularly those by the African Union, he emphasized that the Central African Republic needed fundamental reform and international support.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), welcoming the Government’s rebuilding efforts, described the determination seen in the Bangui Forum and in the elections as encouraging. Regional partners were united in supporting the Central African Republic, he said, adding that MINUSCA also deserved recognition, and commending its important work in the country. Drawing attention to the leaders of armed groups who had not yet laid their arms, he emphasized that State authority was essential for delivering services and preventing marginalization. Japan had decided to provide $15.3 million through a project intended to promote national development, he announced.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the Central African Republic required the full support of the international community and engagement by the Peacebuilding Commission in order to fully implement the national reconciliation plan. Pledges made at various conferences must be fulfilled. Recognizing the President’s efforts to expand State authority and reach out to armed groups for dialogue, he noted the complex challenges of maintaining peace, stressing that social cohesion and stability were critical. He welcomed the African Union initiative to facilitate an agreement between the Government and armed opposition groups without allowing impunity. The President must be supported in his effort to bring on board all those willing to rebuild the country, as he “could not have been clearer” in communicating the challenges and the need to ensure that the country remained stabilized.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said today’s meeting was an excellent opportunity for the Council to reaffirm its commitment to the Central African Republic, ensuring that it did not fall back into conflict. A number of reforms were under way, including in the security and justice sectors, and he encouraged the Government to continue on that path. Expressing concern over indications of increased conflict and attacks on civilians, he condemned violence by armed groups that sacrificed the lives of innocent people. He also expressed concern that half of the population suffered from severe food insecurity and required international food assistance.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), expressing concern about the ongoing security challenges in the Central African Republic, commended MINUSCA’s efforts to restore security. Italy had always supported that country, he said, adding that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had visited Bangui for bilateral projects and coordination. There were a number of Italian non-governmental organizations operating in the Central African Republic and complementing the peace process, he pointed out. Among other things, he welcomed African mediation initiatives, which could create conditions conducive to stabilization and peace.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said free and democratic elections in the Central African Republic had opened a new chapter in the country’s history. Donors had pledged resources to further stabilize the country, he said, adding that effective leadership was critical for reconciliation. Acknowledging the upsurge in clashes, he stressed that the situation remained fragile and that the African mediation initiative could serve as a tool for actors to lay down weapons. Turning to the sanctions regime, he said he had visited the Central African Republic in May 2016 to raise awareness about the Sanctions Committee’s work and the travel ban.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), welcoming the President’s efforts to reach out to armed groups, said that restoring peace and security would require commitment and perfect symmetry among all Central African Republic institutions. Internal mobilization was not enough; there must also be active regional and subregional support. The Security Council had learned with much interest of the agreement between the Government and armed groups, he said, emphasizing the need to pool regional efforts and support the policies undertaken by the Government of the Central African Republic. The Government was called upon on all fronts and the challenges facing it were daunting, he said, calling on international partners to make good on their commitments. Warning that its efforts could be undermined by the lack of appropriate financial support, technical training and equipment, he emphasized that Senegal had contributed troops and equipment to MINUSCA.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said the recently launched peace and reconciliation agreement between the Government and armed groups was another platform for possible negotiations. Such initiatives must complement each other since the country’s security situation remained very vulnerable. Reiterating the need for effective institutions, he said the appointment of the new prosecutor, with MINUSCA’s support, should inspire armed groups to join the reconciliation initiative. He expressed concern that some 2 million Central Africans depended on humanitarian assistance, and reiterated the need to fulfil aid pledges. Regional efforts were critical in that regard, he added, pledging his country’s support in moving reconciliation efforts forward.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) expressed strong support to President Touadera and his Government in efforts to ensure that citizens could live in peace. Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation were all necessary for peace and reconciliation, he said, emphasizing the need for transitional justice to end impunity. While the State had established its authority in several cities, the dire humanitarian situation continued, requiring major assistance from donors.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) recognized the progress made in the Central African Republic yet emphasized that more must be done to achieve sustainable peace and reconciliation. He also expressed support for the democratically elected President and his Government, as well as MINUSCA, in efforts to bring back stability and protect civilians. Pointing to the growing number of displaced people and refugees, he rejected the use of force and encouraged all parties to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said it had been a significant year for the Central African Republic, a country that had endured crisis for far too long. But progress risked being disrupted by a return to the past. The risk of reversal was a painful reality and he called on the Government to secure an agreement with armed groups. More efforts must be made in the areas of disarmament and reconciliation, while all mediation efforts must have the President’s support, align with efforts by MINUSCA and fully respect the interests of the Central African people. Moving beyond the crisis also required full accountability. The country was at a critical juncture as it enjoyed the possibility of sustainable peace. That window would narrow as the conflict continued, he said, stressing that Central Africans deserved a peaceful future.