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Despite Challenges, Central African Republic’s Year-Old Peace Accord Remains Only Viable Framework for Peace, International Officials Tell Security Council

Briefings Highlight Reduced Violence, Upcoming Elections, While Noting Role of Armed Groups in Clashes, Instability

The peace accord signed a year ago between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups faces some challenges but remains the only viable framework for peace, speakers told the Security Council today, expressing hope that the forthcoming elections will breathe new life into that country.

This year marks an important turning point for the people of the country, as they go to the polls, said Mankeur Ndiaye, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Presenting the Secretary-General's latest report on that country, he said the first anniversary of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic was an opportunity to take note of progress and remaining challenges.

He went on to caution, however, that the accord is merely a step forward in a long process sometimes fraught with pitfalls, emphasizing: A peace agreement is not yet peace. Despite significant advances towards implementation of the Political Agreement, several challenges remain, he said, citing persistent violations of the accord by some armed groups, their occupation of administrative buildings, collection of illegal taxes and expansion of their areas of influence. Pockets of instability also remain in the north-eastern towns of Birao, Bria and Alindao, he added.

Against that backdrop, MINUSCA has adopted a robust posture to protect civilians, and mediation efforts are under way to end the clashes, he reported, while calling for international support for the successful holding of presidential, legislative and local elections in 2020 and 2021. The forthcoming elections will turn a new page in the country, he said.

Matias Bertino Matondo, the African Union's Special Representative and Head of the bloc's office in the Central African Republic, briefed by videoconference from Khartoum, highlighting progress towards implementation of the Political Agreement, including the restoration of State authority to many parts of the country and the launch of several social projects to improve the lives of citizens. Some combatants disarmed and joined the reintegration programme, he said, adding that in the improved security condition, the country has seen more free movement of people and goods. He pointed out, however, that most armed groups have not laid down their weapons, continuing to exploit natural resources and engaging in clashes. That instability could spill over into neighbouring countries, he warned, stressing the need for cooperation among subregional and regional organizations, as well as the United Nations.

Also addressing the Council was Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, who visited the capital, Bangui, from 11 to 14 February. Meetings with the President, Prime Minister and other key stakeholders confirmed their commitment to transparent, credible and inclusive elections scheduled in December, he said. However, there is a $20 million shortfall in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) election-cost estimate of $41.8 million, he noted. During the visit, he observed a number of projects supported by the Peacebuilding Trust Fund that are also fostering further gains, he added. The upcoming elections will mark a historical moment when peace can take hold in the country, provided that funding is secured, he said.

The Head of the European Union delegation credited the positive developments in that country largely to the determination of President Faustin-Archange Touadera and his Government. By now, all stakeholders should realize that the Bangui agreement, despite its imperfections, remains the only joint and viable framework for peace, he said, demanding that the Government and the peace accord's facilitators seriously consider imposing sanctions against spoilers.

He went on to highlight the European Union's role, outline its deployment of a civilian mission in the country, as well as its support for the forthcoming elections. The bloc will shoulder about half of the estimated budget for the vote and plans to deploy electoral experts since the elections are crucial to consolidating democracy, he said.

Niger's representative, speaking also for South Africa, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the situation continues to improve, noting the reduced violence and human rights violations. He also commended recent efforts to finalize processes for the creation of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, saying it will help to deliver justice. He went on to recall that the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as guarantors of the Political Agreement, issued a joint communique on 6 February, calling for an end to all attacks against civilians, United Nations personnel and aid workers and for the creation of a legal framework within which to prosecute all violators of the Political Agreement and perpetrators of human rights abuses. He called upon armed groups to exercise restraint and to resolve their disagreements through the dispute-settlement mechanisms provided by the Political Agreement, while urging non-signatory armed groups to engage in all political processes.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:56 a.m.

Briefings

MANKEUR NDIAYE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), introduced the report of the Secretary General on that country (document S/2020/124). Describing 2020 as an important turning point for the country's people as they go to the polls later in the year, he recalled that on 6 February, they marked the first anniversary of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic (document S/2019/145). It was an opportunity to take note of progress, as well as remaining challenges, he said.

On a positive note, he reported a drop in violence against civilians amid the ongoing deployment of armed and security forces to places where they had not been previously deployed. There has also been progress in combating impunity, including the sentencing of 20 perpetrators of a 2017 incident in which a blue helmet serving MINUSCA was killed. A draft law intended to support the national reconciliation process is now in Parliament, he said, adding that victims are waiting for reparations.

He went on to emphasize, however, that a peace agreement is not yet peace, but merely a step forward in a long process that is sometimes fraught with pitfalls. Despite significant advances in implementation of the Political Agreement, several challenges remain, including persistent violations of the accord by some armed groups. They occupy administrative buildings, collect illegal taxes and expand their areas of influence, he reported, noting that while the overall security situation has improved, the remaining pockets of instability involve clashes between armed groups competing for territory and resources.

The clashes pose a serious threat to the protection of civilians, he stressed, pointing out that they have resulted in rising intercommunal tensions in Birao, Bria and Alindao, among other locations. Those security developments in the north-east remain a source of concern, he said, adding that clashes between the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC) and the Central African Liberators for Justice Movement have further weakened the security and humanitarian situation.

Against that backdrop, MINUSCA has employed a robust posture to protect civilians, he said, adding that mediation efforts to end the clashes are under way. Emphasizing that the clashes are in violation of the Political Agreement, he noted that some armed groups use women and children as human shields. He went on to report that the Mission is trying to stop the expansion of the spoiler armed group Union for Peace. MINUSCA will take all necessary measures to protect civilians and help implementation of the Political Agreement, he stressed.

He went on to recall that, with the deadline for holding elections approaching, two former Heads of State returned to the Central African Republic pledging that they will contribute to peaceful elections, he recalled, underlining the vital importance of inclusive polls in which women participate as candidates. While emphasizing that elections cannot be held without the international community's technical, logistical and financial support, he declared: The forthcoming elections will turn a new page in the country.

OLOF SKOOG , Head of the European Union delegation, credited the positive developments largely to the determination of President Faustin-Archange Touadera and his Government. Spotlighting bilateral joint commissions with neighbouring countries as particularly important for building confidence and solidifying peace, he declared: By now, all stakeholders should realize that the Bangui agreement, despite its imperfections, remains the only joint and viable framework for peace. However, a year after the accord was signed, some armed groups do not always respect its terms, he noted. Recalling that violence between two groups escalated several days ago in the town of Birai, he said that was not, regrettably, an isolated incident. He called upon the parties to uphold their word, demanding also that the Government and the facilitators of the Political Agreement seriously consider imposing sanctions against those responsible for the violence. Turning to the European Union's role, he outlined its deployment of a civilian mission to the Central African Republic, as well as its support for the forthcoming elections. The bloc will shoulder about half of the estimated budget and also plans to deploy electoral experts, he said, describing the vote as crucial to consolidating democracy. They must take place, he emphasized.

MATIAS BERTINO MATONDO, Special Representative and Head of the African Union Office in the Central African Republic, briefed by videoconference from Khartoum, recalling that in February, the country commemorated the first anniversary of the Political Agreement's signing with optimism. The guarantors, as well as former Heads of State and others, were present to demonstrate solidarity at that historic moment. He went on to note that there has been some progress on implementation of the accord, including ongoing dialogue with armed groups, the launch of legislative measures, the restoration of State authority in many parts of the country, and the start of several social projects to improve the lives of its people. He went on to report that some combatants laid down their weapons and joined the reintegration programme, adding that with security conditions improving, there has been more free movement of people and goods.

However, challenges remain, he cautioned, pointing out that most armed groups have not laid down their weapons. They continue to exploit natural resources and engage in clashes, which has led, in turn, to intercommunal tensions that are difficult to resolve. Reiterating that the security situation remains a concern, he reported that MINUSCA peacekeepers and members of the Central African Republic army were able to repel FPRC fighters threatening a camp for the internally displaced in the town of Birao. Welcoming the drafting of new laws intended to support national reconciliation, he also stressed the important role played by the subregion's countries in helping to stabilize the Central African Republic, warning that the instability can spill over into neighbouring States. In that regard, he welcomed the cooperation among subregional and regional organizations and the United Nations.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair of the Central African Republic configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, shared highlights of its visit to Bangui from 11 to 14 February, focusing on the upcoming elections and implementation of the Political Agreement, as well as the national recovery and peacebuilding plan. Meetings with the President, Prime Minister and other key stakeholders confirmed their commitment to transparent, credible and inclusive elections scheduled in December, he said. However, they will depend on several elements, including predictable financing, he cautioned, pointing out the $41.8 million shortfall in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) election-cost estimate. While some steps have been taken to implement the Political Agreement, more must be done at a time of growing ethnic polarization, particularly among armed groups, he emphasized.

In that regard, MINUSCA is working with the Government to ease tensions, with civil society, notably women and young people, playing a commendable role on that issue and on publicizing the importance of voting, he said, adding: Their thirst for peace deserves to be underlined. Regarding the national recovery and peacebuilding plan, he reported significant achievements, with strong support from the World Bank, MINUSCA and other partners. Some recent achievements include the verdict that the Special Criminal Court imposed on members of armed groups for attacks against civilians and peacekeepers, he noted. The upcoming elections will mark a historic moment in which peace can take hold, provided that funding is secured, he said, adding that MINUSCA also needs the financial support required to discharge its mandate in full. Highlighting the complexity of follow-up mechanisms relating to the Political Agreement, he suggested simplifying the process.

Statement

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), also speaking for South Africa, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called for full implementation of the Political Agreement in order to lift the country out of the cycle of conflict. Dialogue is the key to ending the crisis, he emphasized, welcoming Government initiatives to promote peace and reconciliation. In particular, he recalled that the Government recently finalized processes for the creation of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, noting that, once created, it will help deliver justice to the people of the Central African Republic. Welcoming the restoration of State authority across the country, he called for more funding for the national security forces. He went on to recall that, in their joint communique of 6 February, the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), in their capacity as guarantors of the Political Agreement, called for an end to all attacks against civilians, United Nations personnel and aid workers and for the creation of a legal framework within which to prosecute all violators of the accord and of human rights. He went on to call upon armed groups to exercise restraint and to resolve their disagreements through the dispute-settlement mechanisms provided by the Political Agreement, while urging non-signatory armed groups to engage in all political processes.

Source: United Nations

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