9074TH MEETING (AM)
Having spent her inaugural months working to build trust and revive the political process in the Central African Republic, the Special Representative for the country today pressed the Security Council to unanimously support the follow-up to a landmark summit in Bangui viewed by authorities and regional partners alike as a viable path towards gradual peace and stability.
Briefing the Council for the first time since assuming her position, Valentine Rugwabiza, who is also the Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said the strategic review meeting, held on 4 June, marked a “critical juncture” in the country’s direction.
She said President Faustin Archange Touadera, along with the foreign ministers of Angola and Rwanda and other international and regional partners, assessed implementation of the Joint Roadmap for Peace in the Central African Republic, adopted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in September 2021.
“The Strategic Review Meeting has achieved all the objectives assigned to it,” Ms. Rugwabiza said, adding that marshalling organizations and States in the region, as well as international partners, in the repositioning of Mission forces is among the “strategic axes” which deserve the Council’s attention.
On the security front, she said MINUSCA is planning an operational response to the new posture of armed groups taking advantage of the fuel crisis in the country. She urged the Council to mobilize States to guarantee fuel supply for the Mission so it can continue its operations.
Against that backdrop, Lina Ekmo, President of the Network for Women's Leadership in the Central African Republic, described a culture of criminal violence which has taken hold. “The population is caught between rebellion, the national army, mercenaries and militias that sow terror and death,” she said, citing mass killings that have targeted the Fulani and the Gbaya.
“I beg you not to minimize the risks,” she stressed. She urged the Council to consider the Central African Republic as a country in an emergency, calling on them to challenge the national authorities on their widespread violence and establish a framework for emergency consultations between national actors, with access granted to civil society, especially women.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates welcomed the political gains made — among them the holding in the strategic review meeting in June and a republican dialogue for national reconciliation in March, the recent adoption of a law abolishing the death penalty, and Government measures to organize local elections in 2023 — while also expressing concern over the violence still gripping the country and calling for continued multidimensional support.
Gabon’s representative, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, affirmed the need for State authority to be established throughout the country by well-trained and well-equipped Central African Armed Forces. To this end, the arms embargo must be lifted and he called for international support for Government efforts to strengthen its management system for weapons and munitions.
On that point, France’s delegate emphasized that Central African authorities can legally obtain all equipment they request, as the regime is one of control rather than prohibition. He called instead for a ceasefire that is respected by all parties, as well as for a unique disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process conducted transparently with the region and MINUSCA. It is clear that Wagner Group mercenaries are not content to use brutal methods themselves but have also inculcated their Central African partners with them, he added.
Along those lines, the United States representative denounced the 23 violations of MINUSCA’s status-of-forces agreement by the Central African Armed Forces — likely directed by the Wagner Group, whose forces perpetrated 41 cases of human rights abuses during the reporting period. He called on the Russian Federation and the Central African Republic to transparently investigate all allegations and hold accountable the perpetrators of these “heinous acts”.
For its part, the Russian Federation’s delegate welcomed the “relatively stable” security situation, emphasizing that her delegation is working to loosen the arms embargo, up to its full lifting. Weapons are acquired by security forces to fight illegal armed formations, which have a regular supply of arms. “The choice of partner in any particular area — especially when we are talking about the services of private military companies — is the prerogative of national authorities,” she insisted.
Detailing progress, the representative of the Central African Republic said the current priority is achieving stability through the neutralization of armed groups who continue their murderous attacks on peaceful people. He questioned, however, how this will be possible with the counter-productive arms embargo in place.
Nonetheless, he emphasized that the Government is working to address the full lifecycle of weapons and requested the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to conduct an independent, impartial assessment of the management of weapons and munitions.
Also speaking were representatives of Brazil, China, United Arab Emirates, India, Norway, Ireland, United Kingdom, Mexico and Albania.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:09 p.m.
VALENTINE RUGWABIZA, 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), said in the last three months, she has worked to strengthen trust with authorities and remobilize organizations and States in the region, as well as international partners, for the revitalization of the political process and the repositioning of the MINUSCA force. “These are the three strategic axes which crystallize the efforts of the Mission and deserve the attention of the Council,” she explained.
Touching on the “de facto lethargy” into which the political process has plunged, she said this strategic priority justifies all actions the Mission has taken with the Government to remobilize the region, in cooperation with Angola and Rwanda, as mandated by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). These efforts culminated in the Strategic Review Meeting on the political process, held on 4 June in Bangui. The Meeting marked a “critical juncture”, as it involved the Head of State, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Angola and Rwanda, the Guarantors and Facilitators of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation agreed on 6 February 2019, and international partners, who assessed the implementation of the Joint Roadmap.
“The Strategic Review Meeting has achieved all the objectives assigned to it,” she said: remobilization of the region, national ownership of the political process, the convergence of views on the need to continue to harmonize political commitments formerly taken separately under the aegis of the guarantors and facilitators of the 6 February 2019 Agreement signed in Khartoum and within the framework of the Joint Roadmap, the creation of conditions for the re-engagement of international partners, and the sovereign decision of Central African authorities to establish this permanent platform for the strategic review of the political process.
Against that backdrop, she requested the Council’s unanimous support for execution of the follow up plan of the 4 June Strategic Review. She commended the President’s decision to be directly involved in political commitments with armed group leaders and to conduct strategic reviews for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation programmes, as well as for security sector reform, and in reconciliation efforts, within the framework of the thematic commissions to be established for this purpose around the six components of the Joint Roadmap.
At the same time, she encouraged the Government to expedite implementation of the recommendations from the republican dialogue, called on partners to contribute to this process and requested the Council to provide political support, per resolution 2605 (2021). She expressed concern over ceasefire violations by all parties, stressing that the cessation of hostilities throughout the Central African Republic remains both an immediate objective and a gauge of the Joint Roadmap’s credibility. She underscored the need for consensual dissuasive measures against those parties who do not uphold their commitments.
She said that in response to civilian fears over persistent ceasefire violations, MINUSCA readjusted its concept of operations to prioritize a preventative approach centred on civilians throughout the country — a move that positively impacted populations in Boyo, Mingala and Pouloubou. She said she plans to mobilize the Mission’s resources and work with community leaders to restrain any credible threat of violence against civilians, “rather than reacting only when violence has taken place”.
On the security front, she said the Mission is planning, for immediate execution, operations in response to the new posture of armed groups who are taking advantage of the crisis for a tactical repositioning. She pressed the Council to mobilize all Member States to guarantee the supply of fuel so the Mission can continue its operations. MINUSCA aims to increase its support to the Government “for as long as it takes” to rebuild the capacities required for more professional defence and security forces. “This is a collective undertaking that requires the support of the Security Council — and of all partners,” she said, but first and foremost, the creation by the Government of favourable conditions for re-engagement of all partners in implementing the National Security Sector Reform Strategy, including the National Defence Plan.
Finally, she said she is committed to working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help the Government mobilize technical assistance as well as in efforts to combat impunity. She noted concern over public incitement of violence against opposition leaders and some partners of the Central African Republic, which can quickly translate to violence with “uncontrollable consequences”. It is the Government’s responsibility to end such reprehensible acts, she said, adding that confidence-building measures with the Government have allowed for a reduction in violations of the status-of-forces agreement, inspire cooperation and open a new phase in the peace process.
LINA EKOMO, President of the Network for Women's Leadership in the Central African Republic, described a culture of criminal violence which has taken hold in the country. “The population is caught between rebellion, the national army, mercenaries and militias that sow terror and death,” she said, citing mass killings that have targeted particular ethnic groups, such as the Fulani and the Gbaya. Armed groups belonging to the Coalition of Central African Patriots are killing civilians and burning homes, as are groups known as “sharks” belonging to the national army and its affiliated militias.
Recalling that the deployment of those groups allied with the regime was initially well received by the civilian population — who hoped it would end the violence perpetrated by other armed militias — she said that hope quickly eroded as violence ensued. In the face of those massive violations of human rights and regular attacks on civilians, she expressed outrage on the part of women civil society leaders over the international community’s denial of the extremely dangerous situation prevailing in the country. “As a woman, as a mother and as a citizen of the Central African Republic, I condemn these massacres,” she said, adding: “I beg you not to minimize the risks.” The situation is at risk of plunging into chaos if strong and concrete measures are not urgently taken.
She recalled that women’s civil society groups recently took part in a republican dialogue, with the hope of helping to reduce tensions in the Central African Republic. However, the dialogue’s non-inclusive nature did not foster substantive discussions on the country's real problems, she said, describing the process as a missed opportunity. Today, no dialogue exists between the Government, the opposition and civil society. “It is the violence and terror maintained by the regime and the armed opposition that prevail,” she said, noting that all opposition politicians, their close relatives, supporters and collaborators as well as civil society activists are under threat. Many have fled the country for their safety. Meanwhile, the economy is deteriorating, misery has set in in the provinces and more than half the population suffers from food insecurity, all despite the existence of the Political Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace in the Central African Republic and the many efforts made by the United Nations, the African Union, the ECCAS and other partners.
Pointing out that some signatory armed groups have withdrawn from the Peace Agreement, she spotlighted the non-inclusive nature of many national peace initiatives, warning in particular that women cannot continue to be excluded from substantive discussions on issues affecting their lives, their communities and their country. Urging the Council to consider the Central African Republic as a country in an emergency situation — and for which emergency measures must be taken — she called in particular for efforts to challenge the national authorities on their widespread violence; create a framework for emergency consultation between national actors; and provide civil society access to such consultations, with women playing a leading role.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), outlining conditions necessary for the stabilization of the Central African Republic, called for the establishment of a ceasefire that is respected by all parties; dialogue between the Government and armed groups; and a unique disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process conducted transparently with the region and MINUSCA. Further, national decision-makers must ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, which is crucial for MINUSCA’s joint operation with the Central African Armed Forces. Expressing concern over reports of the armed forces’ conduct, he said that it is clear that Wagner Group mercenaries are not content to use widely documented brutal methods themselves, but have also inculcated their Central African partners with them. Turning to the arms embargo, he pointed out that Central African authorities can legally obtain all equipment they request, as the regime is one of control rather than prohibition.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, noting that the recent history of the Central African Republic is marked by violence perpetrated by armed groups and conflicting postures taken by external powers, underscored the need for the Council to support the democratically elected Central African authorities. Maintaining consensus on multidimensional support for the country must be a priority, and the recent adoption of a law abolishing the death penalty and use of torture demonstrates the national authorities’ desire to combat human-rights violations. He also welcomed all Government measures to organize local elections in 2023 in a peaceful, inclusive environment, along with MINUSCA’s support in this regard. In such a fragile security environment, the international community must provide necessary financing to national election authorities, and pledges towards this end made in November 2021 must be honoured.
He went on to express concern over frequent massacres of civilians, condemning the use of anti-personnel mines and other explosive weapons against civilians in the central and western regions of the country. Given this complex security crisis, the Council must take firm action, primarily focused on the supply chains of rebel groups that seem to enjoy free access to increasingly sophisticated weapons. The illegal exploitation of natural resources is a main source of financing for such groups, requiring the implementation of stricter control measures and punishment for anyone involved in illicit resource trafficking. He also reaffirmed the ad hoc nature of MINUSCA’s mandate, underscoring the need for State authority to be established throughout the country by well-trained and well-equipped Central African forces. To this end, the arms embargo must be lifted, and he added a call for international support for Government efforts to strengthen its management system for weapons and munitions.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), describing the conditions in which the Special Representative and the Panel of Experts are working as challenging, said the holding of the Central African Republic’s republican dialogue is a relevant step to reaching sustained peace. He echoed the calls of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Central African Republic configuration to ensure that that exercise — and its follow up — be inclusive. “No durable solution can be found without bringing all stakeholders to the table, including women,” he said, also stressing the key role played by the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and encouraging the Government to persevere in that work. It is crucial to strengthen the rule of law, especially in light of the various reports of human rights and international humanitarian law violations, including the recruitment of child soldiers. Against that backdrop, it is encouraging to see the renewed engagement of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in favour of the implementation of the September 2021 road map, he said, also welcoming the agreement reached by the Central African Republic and Cameroon to work together on border demarcation.
DAI BING (China) welcomed the holding of the Strategic Review Meeting and expressed support for efforts by regional organizations to facilitate implementation of the Joint Roadmap and to promote the political process “in the right direction”. The Mission should help the Government address risks and protect civilians, he said, noting nonetheless that it cannot be deployed indefinitely. He therefore called for capacity-building. MINUSCA also should help the Government restore State authority; improve institution building; support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and promote local development. Noting that oil and food shortages have impacted efforts to carry out the Mission’s mandate, he said some countries should resume financial aid and humanitarian funding to help the Central African Republic improve the humanitarian conditions. He also called for investment in food security infrastructure, health and vocational training, expressing hope the Special Representative will continue to listen to the host country, improve peacekeeping efficiency and foster peace and stability. The Council, meanwhile, should listen to the country’s appeal and lift the arms embargo at an early date, he added.
GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the 4 June Strategic Review Meeting as an important step to revitalizing the political agreement and welcomed the cooperation with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to achieve such goals. She noted recommendations stemming from the republican dialogue and underlined the need for inclusiveness in that process. On the “alarming” security front, she underscored the need to commit to the ceasefire, stressing that the safeguarding of civilians must be front and centre of all political and security considerations, especially in protecting women and children from conflict-related sexual violence. She also cited the threat of explosive ordnance. Noting more broadly that 3 million people require humanitarian assistance and that almost half the population is food insecure, she underscored the need to protect aid workers.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), reiterated the importance of making the republican dialogue as inclusive as possible. Putting democratic institutions in place cannot be over-emphasized, he said, welcoming MINUSCA’s support to the National Election Authority. Strongly condemning attacks by armed groups on civilian, he said the discovery of anti-personnel landmines and the rise in improvised explosive device use by armed group is a “worrying sign”. He expressed hope that the new coordination structure to oversee implementation of status-of-forces agreement will resolve outstanding issues and ensure adequate coordination on the ground. Stressing that the humanitarian situation requires collective, sustained attention and noting the twin burden of rising prices and falling supplies of petroleum and food rations on developing countries, he said: “We can ill afford to again disregard principles of equity, affordability, and accessibility of essential commodities for the needy, as we had erred in the case of COVID-19 vaccines”. He expressed hope that the international community will extend support to the humanitarian response plan, which remains poorly funded.
TRINE HEIMERBACK (Norway) commended the Central African Republic authorities for organizing the republican dialogue in March. “Even if it should have been more inclusive, we hope its conclusions and recommendations will be used to renew the impetus for advancing the peace process,” she said, stressing that the Government, the opposition and armed groups all share the responsibility to get the peace process back on track. Meanwhile, local elections — underpinned by a credible political process — provide a unique opportunity to extend the democratic space and build peace. Calling on MINUSCA to provide logistical support for their preparations, she voiced concern about the proposal to change the Constitution to allow for a third presidential term and joined other speakers in condemning reports of gender-based and conflict-related sexual violence, violations against children, attacks against humanitarian workers and the targeting of ethnic or religious minorities. In addition, she expressed shock to see “other security personnel” — such as mercenaries of the Russian Federation’s Wagner Group — listed in the latest quarterly report of MINUSCA’s Human Rights Division, and called on the Central African Republic authorities to investigate all incidents involving such actors and hold perpetrators accountable.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States) expressed concern over 23 violations of MINUSCA’s status-of-forces agreement perpetrated by the Central African Armed Forces — likely directed by the Wagner Group — and condemned disinformation campaigns targeting the Mission that impede mandate implementation and endanger peacekeepers. There is no purely military solution to the crisis in the Central African Republic. The only way forward is through implementation of the 2019 peace agreement and sustained State authority throughout the country that is responsive to the population’s needs. Emphasizing the importance of ensuring accountability for perpetrators of human-rights violations, he welcomed the Special Criminal Court’s recently opened first trial as an important milestone. However, one of the worst offenders is the Wagner Group, whose forces perpetrated 42 incidents of human-rights abuses during the reporting period that affected 165 victims, often in the presence of national defence forces. He called on the Russian Federation and the Central African Republic to transparently investigate all allegations and hold accountable those responsible for these “heinous acts”.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), welcoming the republican dialogue, said the fact that many recommendations align with the 2019 Political Agreement is encouraging. Disappointed by the postponement of the local elections, she encouraged the authorities to prioritize preparations for the polls scheduled for January 2023, including the full, fair and meaningful participation of women, stressing: “Their safety must be ensured.” The continued incidents of conflict-related sexual violence are unacceptable, she said, expressing deep concern about alleged abuses against civilians by the national security forces and other security personnel, particularly the Wagner Group. Turning to the worsening economic and fiscal situation, she noted that 3.1 million people, 63 per cent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, while strongly condemning attacks against humanitarian actors and obstructions to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Encouraging all parties to continue to engage constructively with MINUSCA, she noted that sanctions are an important tool used to support the restoration of peace and security in the country, reiterating her country’s support for the 2127 Sanctions Committee.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) urged the parties to respect the ceasefire, while voicing grave concern about continued violations of international law — especially the indiscriminate killings of unarmed civilians by the Central African Armed Forces and the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Meanwhile, the ripple effects of Moscow’s illegal invasion of Ukraine are having a profound impact, with food and fuel shortages hampering the humanitarian response and impeding MINUSCA’s operations. To help ease the impact, he called on the Government of Cameroon to allow the export of fuel and other humanitarian items to meet urgent humanitarian needs. He went on to voice concern about an increase in violations of MINUSCA’s status-of-forces agreement — including with the involvement of “other security personnel” — and urged the Government to the share the outcome of its investigation into the attack by presidential guard forces on a United Nations bus on 1 November 2021. In addition, he stressed that the arms embargo exists to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of armed groups and fuelling violence, not to prevent the Government from obtaining the equipment it needs for defence and security sector reform, and pointed out that to date the 2127 Sanctions Committee has approved all exemption requests submitted under the framework of the arms embargo.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), while welcoming progress achieved thanks to the coordinated efforts of MINUSCA and the national authorities, stressed that violations of the status-of-forces agreement are unacceptable as they curtail the Mission’s effectiveness and endanger its staff. Noting the Government’s position on the arms embargo, she expressed openness to discussing alternatives that would facilitate an effective response to the illicit trafficking of arms. So long as weapons remain broadly available, some actors will always prefer the path of violence to political dialogue, and international cooperation is needed for the national authorities to implement a system to manage weapons and munitions. She went on to emphasize that a military response alone is insufficient to end the violence and, beyond political dialogue, justice must play a key role so that all those responsible for atrocities are punished and victims can obtain reparation. The Special Criminal Court’s first trial represents considerable progress in this area, and she added that reconciliation requires effective transitional-justice mechanisms to break the cycle of violence.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) welcomed the relatively stable situation in the country, which is broadly under the control of Government forces. Work is under way to ensure the State presence and strengthen administrative structures, while the 2019 Khartoum Agreement remains the framework for security. She pressed parties to uphold the 2021 ceasefire, urging those groups not onboard with the peace process to engage in dialogue with the authorities. She also pointed to the launch of the coordination mechanism, whose first meeting took place on 14 April. MINUSCA must counter illegal armed formations in the protection of civilians, she said, welcoming the positive changes in its interaction with Bangui. For its part, the Russian Federation is working to achieve a loosening of the arms embargo, up to its full lifting, noting that similar positions have been outlined by African representatives, as well as by the African Union and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. “Central Africans themselves constantly talk about this,” she said, as weapons are acquired by security forces to fight illegal armed formations, which have a regular supply of arms.
Emphasizing that sanctions should not hamper Government efforts to counter armed groups, she said the Russian Federation is helping Bangui to enhance the military capabilities of its official security structures and has provided several batches of military-grade equipment, on the invitation of the legitimate authorities. Russian instructors are working successfully in the Central African Republic and her country strictly complies with restrictions imposed by the Security Council. “The choice of partner in any particular area — especially when we are talking about the services of private military companies — is the prerogative of national authorities,” she insisted, objecting also to references in the Secretary-General’s report blaming events in Ukraine for the food and energy crisis in the Central African Republic. Rather, she blamed systematic mistakes made by Western States, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted food supply chains. The smear campaign, notably by the United States delegate, demonstrates that the attention of Washington, D.C., is not focused on the Central African Republic. “That is very saddening,” she said.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), Council President for June, noting the republican dialogue is a step in the right direction, echoed the Secretary-General’s call for the necessary funding to ensure an inclusive, credible election process. Efforts to reach the 35 per cent gender quota and to adopt a law on the delimitation of administrative districts are also strongly recommended. Alarmed by the spike of activities of armed groups and appalled by the repeated human rights violations by the armed forces and mercenaries, she said perpetrators must be brought to justice, commending the launching of the first trial of the Special Criminal Court, and the organization of the first criminal sessions in the Bangui Court of Appeal. Regarding the arms embargo, she encouraged the Government to meet all benchmarks towards full compliance and in the reform of its security sector, stressing that national authorities must have full control over the tracking of those weapons. Heartened by the re-integration of over 1,000 ex-combatants as of 1 June, she called on the national authorities to continue their engagement with armed groups to re-integrate the remaining 3,000 estimated ex-combatants in the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Also voicing concern about the ongoing violations of the status-of-forces agreement, which is obstructing MINUSCA’s work on the ground, as well as security incidents involving United Nations personnel, she expressed condolences to the family of the two peacekeepers killed last week and stressed the need to ensure peacekeepers’ safety.
MARIUS ARISTIDE HOJA NZESSIOUE (Central African Republic) expressed regret over the Council’s rejection of the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ request to speak by videoconference, a method that seems to be allowed for some but not all Member States. It is difficult to plead the Central African Republic’s cause, because any speech about the values of the Charter of the United Nations would be in vain as not all are treated equally under that instrument. Recalling his country’s history of violence and tyranny imposed by other men, he said that the Central African Republic has taken all necessary efforts to emerge therefrom. The current priority is achieving stability through the neutralization of armed groups that continue their murderous attacks on peaceful people, and he underscored that the Government is fully aware of its responsibility to protect its people. He questioned, however, how this will be possible with the counter-productive arms embargo in place.
He went on to detail the Government’s progress in this area despite the many disinformation efforts currently under way. Among other initiatives, the Government has implemented operations to address the full lifecycle of weapons and has requested the expertise of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to conduct an independent, impartial assessment of progress achieved in the management of weapons and munitions. Further, with the support of its partners, the Government conducted numerous missions in 2020 and 2021 to ensure that the security situation in areas under Government control enables the free movement of goods and persons. In the area of combating impunity, the Special Criminal Court has started proceedings and hearings are under way; additionally, the bodies in charge of judicial and military oversight are working to establish responsibility when an arrest warrant is issued against a military figure or politician. While welcoming MINUSCA’s efforts to support the Government, he pointed out that the Mission is still confronted with a complex situation on the ground and stressed that the Central African Armed Forces should be at the forefront despite the paltry resources it has to face armed groups.
For information media. Not an official record.