Continued attacks by illegal armed groups in Central African Republic thwarting progress towards implementing peace agreement, Special Representative tells Security Council.
Central Africa President Stresses Commitment to Strengthen Institutional Stability, Restore Security, Calling for Renewal of Peacekeeping Mission’s Mandate
Unabating attacks by illegal armed groups in the Central African Republic are exacerbating the already‑fragile security situation and undermining valuable progress made in establishing institutional stability, the Head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there told the Security Council today, as members examined the situation ahead of an imminent vote on renewing the Mission’s mandate, which expires on 15 November.
Issues considered by the 15-member Council ranged from concerted efforts by the Government to bring about a political solution to the crisis, including through sustained dialogue and the recent announcement by President Faustin Archange Touadera of a unilateral ceasefire in his Government’s war against violent armed groups, as well as the utility of an arms embargo imposed in 2013, to concerning reports of excessive use of force and alleged rights violations by military instructors from the Russian Federation.
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/2021/867), said that extending MINUSCA’s mandate can help build on the positive momentum generated by the recent elections, which concluded on 23 June, by deepening decentralization through holding local elections, which have not occurred since 1988. He cautioned that any delay in doing so will undermine the integrity of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (known as the Khartoum Accord).
As many as 3.1 million people in the Central African Republic — 63 per cent of its population — are in urgent need of protection and assistance, he said, calling for more funding as only 60 per cent of the humanitarian budget is currently covered. Moreover, the security situation in the country’s west and central south-east is deteriorating due to the activities of illegal armed actors, he said, adding that the ongoing strategic review of MINUSCA will pave the way for important security sector reforms and help it better address complex security challenges. Calling recent violations of the status of forces agreement between MINUSCA and the Government “particularly deplorable”, he said a credible political process could only be brought about with improvements in the security and humanitarian situation.
Also raising such concerns was Olaf Skoog, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, who deplored recent reports of human rights violations committed by a host of actors, including armed groups, national armed forces and instructors. He also condemned human rights and international humanitarian law violations and abuses, including conflict-related sexual violence and the uptick in the use of explosive ordnance devices, adding that international partners, such as the European Union and MINUSCA, have borne the brunt of repeated attacks. Welcoming the republican dialogue announcement on 1 September, he emphasized the need for such talks to be credible and inclusive, to pave the way for an enduring solution to the crisis.
Adeoye Bankole, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union, echoed such calls for inclusiveness, stating that youth, women, and various stakeholders should be allowed to participate in the process towards lasting peace. The African Union — as the guarantor of the Peace Agreement — will continue to provide support for the Central African Republic, he said, adding that the bloc is ready to deploy human rights observers and supply MINUSCA with additional personnel and equipment.
Also briefing the Council was Pamela Audrey Derom, President of the Conseil National de la Jeunesse Centrafricaine, the first woman to lead the country’s National Youth Council, who called for the active engagement of the Central African Republic’s young people — who represent 70 per cent of the country’s working population — in development projects.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed the Government’s measures to reinstate institutional stability and meet the formidable challenges it faced, and expressed appreciation for the contributions of regional actors, such as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to facilitating long-term stability in the country. Some voiced concerns about obstructions to the work of the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic, while many condemned the increasing attacks on MINUSCA, including reports of status of forces agreement violations and attempts to discredit it through disinformation campaigns. In particular, a number of delegates drew attention to reports of human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian group Wagner.
In this regard, the representative of the United Kingdom expressed concern about credible reports of such human rights abuses, which he said stoked conflict and undermined the vital work of international peacekeepers and the Central African authorities. Observing that Wagner does not offer long-term security solutions in Africa, he called for a full investigation into these reports, adding that his country is ready to agree on appropriate measures, including United Nations sanctions, in response.
In a similar vein, France’s delegate characterized the Wagner group’s presence in the Central African Republic as “destabilizing”, pointing out that there is mounting evidence of its involvement in extrajudicial executions, as well as the organized plunder of natural resources. She went on to call for the elimination of ambiguity created by language such as “other security forces” in United Nations reports. For his part, the representative of Norway said that, while the Coalition of Patriots for Change and the Central African Armed Forces were responsible for human rights abuses, the Wagner group were responsible for almost half of the verified incidents, involving nearly 500 victims.
The representative of the Russian Federation challenged these points, contending that Russian instructors do not take part in fighting, but merely aim to enhance the level of professional training of the armed forces. “If we receive information on violations from law enforcement bodies of the Central African Republic, we will closely examine them,” she stressed, calling on Council members to focus their attention on violations committed by their own militaries and private companies in the country, as well as in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera, who also addressed the Council, said his Government was committed to bolstering institutional stability and restoring security, despite the depredations of armed groups such as the Coalition. Nonetheless, he emphasized that he had never closed the door to negotiations with the Coalition’s leaders. Calling on the Council to unanimously renew MINUSCA’s mandate and reconsider the arms embargo, which impinged on security forces’ ability to face up to sudden threats, he said: “Our only ambition is to find a lasting political solution to the crisis we are enduring.”
Also speaking were representatives of Tunisia (also on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), India, Viet Nam, United States, Mexico, Ireland, Estonia and China.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:10 p.m.