6240th Meeting (AM)
Priorities of Peacebuilding Commission's Country-specific Configuration Outlined
Despite raised hopes, the overall political, security and socio-economic situation in the Central African Republic remained "fragile and challenging", the senior United Nations representative in that country told the Security Council today.
"Only a clear course of action by the international community and regional actors would help the CAR to shift from conflict to a post-conflict country", emphasized Sahle-Work Zewde, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA).
Introducing the Secretary-General's latest report on the situation in her first appearance before the 15-member body, Ms. Zewde said the signing of the Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 21 June 2008 and the holding of the Inclusive Political Dialogue in December 2008 gave hope for a return to normality, which had been disrupted by violence and confrontations between the Government and rebel groups since 1999. The situation had now reached a critical stage in which the fate of the political process would be determined by the successful holding of elections, before the end of April 2010, and the completion of the first two phases of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants before those polls.
She detailed electoral preparations as contained in the report, as well as factors that could derail progress in that effort, including counterproductive moves by political actors, delays in implementing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and the existence of armed groups outside the peace process.
Describing United Nations projects in the Central African Republic, she said implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding remained the most viable way to deal with the challenges, maintaining that national political actors and other stakeholders should also show the commitment and political will to confront those obstacles. Similarly, concerted regional and international support and assistance were required at this very critical point, including intensified political discussions and good offices with all the parties and actors in the peace process.
In that regard, she called for the reinforcement of the Dialogue Follow-up Committee and the establishment of the Permanent Consultation Framework, as recommended by the Inclusive Political Dialogue. Additionally, as recommended by the recent United Nations electoral needs assessment mission to the country, there was a need to strengthen the Organization's capacity to provide political guidance during the electoral and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. Likewise, there should be an increase of timely support to the International Electoral Commission to allow it to fulfil its mandate.
Commending the progress made by the DDR Steering Committee and the deployment of 31 military observers, she called for the observers to be deployed during the coming days to ensure completion of the demobilization process prior to the elections. In the meantime, it was necessary to accelerate the reintegration of former combatants belonging to groups that had signed the peace accords, as well as the disarmament of other armed groups.
Turning to the transition from BONUCA to the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), she said all interviews for the new mission's substantive posts had been completed and -- with the Council's support -- she was determined to have the new entity functioning by the time of her next report early next year. The BONUCA is scheduled to hand over its responsibilities to BINUCA on 1 January 2010.
She affirmed that her Office was taking a harmonized approach and putting in place coordination mechanisms for the whole United Nations system in the Central African Republic. To achieve that goal, the mission would need appropriate human and financial resources, as well as full support from the Peacebuilding Commission, other international and regional initiatives, and other United Nations missions in the region.
Also briefing Council members, Jan Grauls ( Belgium), Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission's Country-specific Configuration on the Central African Republic, welcomed the transition from BONUCA to an integrated peacebuilding office, which would be better able to support the Commission's work. Coordination and consistency would be the two major focuses of the new United Nations presence.
He said the country-specific configuration had followed closely the progress towards finalizing the draft document on the DDR of ex-combatants, a process that would cost some $27 million, financed through contributions from the Peacebuilding Fund and other sources, including from subregional organizations such as the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa and the Economic Community of Central African States.
In light of the upcoming elections, launching the programme was of the greatest urgency as failure to do so might destabilize the country, he said, noting that a round table on security-sector reform had enabled national authorities to adopt a national strategy in that regard, thereby making national ownership a reality. In order to finance security-sector reform, he proposed a pledging conference, to be held in early 2010.
He said the Peacebuilding Commission was also working on other priorities of the Strategic Framework, such as good governance and the rule of law. The campaign to combat corruption showed that progress was being made. The adoption of the Electoral Code and establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission were clear indications that the Government intended to hold elections within the agreed timetable. He called for financial support to give that Commission the means and space to carry out its work. Deploying international electoral observer missions was also a priority.
Progress had also been made in the drafting of "development pillars" that would improve living conditions, especially for those who had suffered most from the conflict, he said. In the six months to come, the country-specific configuration on Central African Republic intended to concentrate on a restricted but interlinked number of priorities, such as launching the DDR process, mobilizing resources to organize security-sector reform, and launching the draft development pillars.
He warned, however, that, although preparations for DDR had been finalized, and with military observers from the Economic Community of Central African States in place, inter-ethnic tensions persisted in the north-east, as did road closures by self-defence groups in the north-west. He recalled that, during his last visit, one armed group had denied him access to a centre for demobilized child soldiers, and stressed the importance of creating an appropriate environment for DDR before the end of 2009.
Also taking the floor, Fernand Poukre-Kono ( Central African Republic) praised the Secretary-General's "exhaustive report", noting that meaningful progress had been made despite lags. The vast programmes needed to secure normality in the country, while nationally owned, would only succeed with the support of external actors in such areas as security-sector reform and the rule of law.
He said the parties had agreed to prioritize good governance and the demobilization of armed groups through a comprehensive programme. Except for one rebel group, all actors had decided to cooperate. The DDR programme was on track, but would only be effective within the context of strengthened rule of law.
As for the elections, he said the Government was committed to fulfilling its obligations and holding them on time. There was hope that that would be accomplished, given the assistance being provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other actors, even though a vast awareness-raising effort was needed, among other challenges.
Gains made towards restoring stability must be preserved, he stressed, adding that the lack of national capability to deal with foreign armed groups was being offset by regional and international efforts. Commending efforts by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help reintegrate children affected by armed groups, he said the Government's cooperation in those efforts showed its commitment to opposing child conscription. Finally, the Central African Republic welcomed the transition from BONUCA to BINUCA, as well as the efforts of the Secretary-General's Special Representative and the role of Gabon as mediator in the country's crises.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.
Before the Security Council this morning was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic and on the activities of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in that country (document S/2009/627), which provides an update on developments since his last report (document S/2009/309), 12 June.
The report also gives a summary of efforts to put in place the structure and resources required to operationalize the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). During the period under review, the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Field Support took actions to ensure the effective transition from BONUCA to BINUCA as from 1 January 2010. BINUCA's budget is currently with the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
According to the report, the Central African Republic and its international partners continued to focus on efforts to implement the outcome of the Inclusive Political Dialogue of December 2008, held in the capital, Bangui, during the reporting period. However, the Dialogue Follow-up Committee regretted the slow pace of implementation of the recommendations emanating from the Dialogue, and deplored the non-implementation of key political proposals relating to the separation of powers, the establishment of a permanent dialogue mechanism, and ending the practice of Government officials holding multiple functions. Paulin Pomodimo, former Archbishop of Bangui, was appointed National Mediator.
The report goes on to note that, after initial constitutional objections, a new electoral code was promulgated on 2 October and an Independent Electoral Commission appointed subsequently. A United Nations electoral needs assessment mission visited the country from 29 October to 12 November and found that the electoral process faces many constraints and risks which can be mitigated only with substantial and expeditious international assistance. The mission recommended that the Organization provide electoral assistance centred on contributing to the improvement of the social, political and security environment, and on providing technical support for legislative and presidential elections in 2010.
The only rebel group remaining outside the peace process is the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP), the report states, noting, however, that the Government has initiated a dialogue with the group. Members of the Front démocratique pour le peuple centrafricain (FDPC) returned to Bangui to participate in the peace process, but some splinter groups have broken away and formed the Mouvement national du salut de la patrie (MNSP).
Conveying the Secretary-General's concern about reports of intimidation and restrictions on the movements of some opposition members by security forces, the report urges the Government to ensure the security of all political actors. The Secretary-General is also concerned about calls for the postponement of the elections due to insecurity in some parts of the country and the delay in implementing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.
The Secretary-General observes that the expeditious implementation of the disarmament and demobilization phase is critical for the 2010 elections. Any further delay may not only negatively affect the holding of elections as scheduled, but could also lead to the frustration of ex-combatants who may be forced to return to violence, he warns.
According to the report, the political and security situation in the Vakaga region near the borders with Chad and the Sudan is calm, but unpredictable in the wake of recurrent inter-ethnic conflicts. The absence of effective State authority throughout the national territory, especially along the borders with Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan, remains a source of concern.
To address cross-border insecurity, the report says, the United Nations will continue to cooperate with the Central African Economic and Monetary Community in order to provide support for the tripartite process by the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Chad to carry out joint operations along their common borders. The BONUCA, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) will also continue to enhance cooperation with one another.
The report states that economic activity in the Central African Republic declined in 2009, owing to the adverse impact of the global economic crisis on the export sector, in particular diamonds and timber, among other things. However, the country did achieve the completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, with a debt reduction of $578 million. Its debt to Paris Club creditors declined from $59.3 million to $3.7 million. Economic growth is expected to reach 3.5 per cent in 2010.
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