The situation in the Central African Republic - Security Council, 8802nd meeting.
Permanent Representative Requests Lifting of Arms Embargo, Stressing Sanctions Only Favour Bangui’s Enemies
Prolific violence surging in the Central African Republic has made that country one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian personnel, the Head of the United Nations Mission there told the Security Council today, as members examined the situation in the wake of contentious presidential elections held in December 2020.
Among other things, the 15-member Council considered efforts by the Government to neutralize violent armed groups, as well as the utility of an arms embargo first imposed in 2013, as the country struggles to promote political dialogue and tackle a raft of security challenges.
Mankeur Ndiaye, 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), briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest related report (document S/2021/571), said the country’s President and other political stakeholders are committed to holding local elections — last convened in 1988 — in early 2022, in order to enable the participation of all citizens in political life. However, he voiced concern over the military offensive currently being carried out by defence, bilateral and other security forces to eliminate guerrilla attacks by the group known as Coalition of Patriots for Change, or the Coalition.
“Never have violations of human rights and international humanitarian law equalled those recently committed,” he emphasized, reporting that Coalition armed forces are responsible for most of those violations in the asymmetric war being waged in the country’s central and north-west regions. Five times more incidents of conflict-related sexual violence occurred in the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the last quarter of 2020 and there were a total of 39 violations of the status of forces agreement between February and June. Meanwhile, humanitarian workers have been attacked 225 times over the first five months of 2021.
Against that backdrop, he called on the Council to address the increased risks that Blue Helmets are facing on the ground and create optimal conditions for MINISCUA to be effective. There is a genuine opportunity to restore stability, peace and development to the Central African Republic, he added, noting that the Mission will do its part to uphold United Nations principles on the ground.
Also highlighting that opportunity was Rita Laranjinha, European Union Managing Director for Africa, who said constitutional order was maintained and the electoral process has continued despite the threat posed by armed groups. Urgent reforms are needed, however, and national authorities must allow the political opposition to find its place within the current dialogue. Emphasizing the criticality of that dialogue, she voiced support for renewed efforts by regional partners, including the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Bankole Adeoye, African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, detailed some of those initiatives, including a recent visit to the Central African Republic in which he and other international partners engaged with leading political actors, local officials and groups representing women and youth. The African Union — as guarantor of peace in the country — will continue to work with all stakeholders “to make peace a permanent feature” and strengthen the bloc’s strategy of “African solutions to African problems”, he said.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members stressed the need for national authorities to create favourable conditions for MINUSCA, including respecting the status of forces agreement and affording the Mission unhindered access throughout the country. Calling for a revitalized political dialogue aimed at promoting national reconciliation, many speakers decried rising violence against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers by national armed forces and military instructors hailing from the Russian Federation. Others stressed that the Government bears the primary responsibility for protecting civilians and, to that end, the Council must listen to regional appeals to lift the arms embargo restricting the resources necessary for national armed forces to assume the mantle.
Emphasizing that “there is no other alternative” to national reconciliation, the representative of Tunisia, speaking for the group known informally as the “A3+1” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), described the Central African Republic’s 2020 elections as a litmus test of its 2019 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Stressing that political dialogue must continue, he also encouraged the authorities to hold accountable those responsible for the significant increase in human rights violations, be they armed groups, national defence and security forces or bilaterally deployed personnel.
On that point, the representative of the United Kingdom joined other speakers in citing overwhelming evidence that “members of the national armed forces and the Russian private military personnel accompanying them” are committing human rights violations, including sexual violence. He encouraged the Russian Federation to reflect on its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Council, while underscoring the need to maintain the arms embargo for the moment. While the time may come to ensure the Central African Republic’s defensive capabilities, “that time is not now”, he said.
Addressing those points, the representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that allegations of mercenary activity by her country — offered without any evidence — “look more like an anti-Russian political hit job”. Its instructors are present in the Central African Republic with full knowledge of the Council, and do not participate in military action. Turning to the role being played by MINUSCA, she said the Mission’s efforts must not replace those of national authorities. To that end, the international community should strengthen the Government’s self-defence capacity by lifting the arms embargo imposed on Bangui.
Also addressing the Council was the representative of the Central African Republic, who pointed out that that the organ authorized the delivery of weapons to his country with the help of instructors from the Russian Federation. Calling for the arms embargo to be lifted as sanctions measures only favour the country’s enemies, he outlined Government efforts — and concomitant progress in recent months — towards greater institutional stability, the preservation of constitutional order and republican dialogue. “People want to turn the page and begin a new chapter,” he stressed.
Also speaking were representatives of Angola, Congo, France, Viet Nam, the United States, India, China, Mexico, Norway, Ireland, Estonia and Chad.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:53 p.m.