Welcoming steps to approve a Central African pact against the illegal trafficking of arms and a code of conduct for the countries' armed forces, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told a United Nations-sponsored security meeting that such concrete measures were needed for the region to achieve lasting peace and stability.
In a message to the latest ministerial meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, Mr. Ban said there have been several signs of important progress in the region over the past year despite the many challenges it faces.
He cited the holding of presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the ceasefire between the Burundian Government and that country's last major rebel group, PALIPEHUTU-FNL, as encouraging examples.
But he added that the delay in implementing the ceasefire in Burundi and the outbreak of deadly violence in the DRC in March indicated the fragility of the situation in those two countries.
"It is therefore very important to put in place the mechanisms and the programmes which will consolidate the progress realised," Mr. Ban said in the message, delivered on his behalf to the meeting by Agnès Marcaillou, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.
The five-day meeting, which concludes tomorrow, is being held in São Tomé, capital of São Tomé and Príncipe.
Mr. Ban added that the current conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, which is threatening to engulf neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) as well, showed the need for a regional framework for collective security.
"I welcome also your intention to approve as soon as possible the text of a sub-regional instrument in the fight against the illegal trade in small arms, and a code of conduct for the armed and security forces in Central Africa.
"Only concrete measures to reinforce peace and security will restore the necessary stability for sustainable development of Central Africa and give the populations the opportunity to exploit fully their immense human and natural riches."
The Committee, which meets twice a year at the ministerial level, was established by the UN Secretary-General in May 1992 and its membership comprises all 11 countries in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) - Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the CAR, Chad, the Republic of Congo, the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and São Tomé and Príncipe.