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SC/14331
19 October 2020
8771st Meeting (AM)

Central African Republic Poised to Successfully Hold December Elections Despite Tense Environment, Attacks by Armed Groups, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Despite ongoing tensions, attacks by armed groups and the challenges now posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to hold the Central African Republic’s critical presidential, legislative and local elections on 27 December are continuing apace, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.

“Central Africa is very well on its way to holding successful elections,” said 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), as he briefed the 15-member Council via videoconference.  Noting that today’s meeting is taking place at a crucial time for the country, he said it has a unique opportunity to leverage recent democratic gains and further stabilize the security situation.

Among the latest strides, he said the newly drafted electoral code has resulted in the development of a computerized and reliable voter roster.  Women now comprise 46 per cent of the electoral roll.  However, he reiterated his appeal on the Central African Republic and neighbouring States to allow refugees to participate in the electoral process and called on all actors to refrain from spreading misinformation.  The country’s international partners can help to fill outstanding funding gaps, including a $4 million shortfall in the basket fund created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Describing the path to peace as “long and winding”, he urged stakeholders to “pick up the pace”.  MINUSCA will continue to protect civilians and humanitarian workers while simultaneously fulfilling its robust election support mandate.

Smaїl Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, also praised promising recent developments — including the registration of nearly 2 million voters to date.  Taking note of the Central African Republic’s statement on “insurmountable obstacles” in registering refugees residing in neighbouring States, he spotlighted the implementation of the 2019 peace agreement signed in Bangui, the country’s capital, as the top priority, while citing a notable decrease in violence since MINUSCA helped Bangui expand the redeployment of State authority across the country.  All actors should distance themselves from any statements that could undermine social cohesion — especially rumours and “fake news” — he said, calling on them to support the holding of peaceful elections. 

Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa of the European External Action Service, said the European Union is providing over half the budget for the Central African Republic’s electoral process.  It is now critical for all stakeholders in the country to act responsibly, he stressed, calling for media transparency, a revitalization of the peace agreement and an end to impunity.  He called on the guarantors and facilitators of the peace agreement to redouble their efforts in support of the accord, adding that, for its part, the Union will mobilize political, humanitarian, cooperation development, crisis management and security instruments to aid the country in State-building and rule of law.

As Council members took the floor, many welcomed strides made in electoral preparations, as well as the Special Representative’s projection that voting will be held on schedule.  However, several speakers voiced concern about ongoing human rights violations and attacks on civilians and peacekeepers, stressing that spoilers who violate the 2019 peace agreement by committing such crimes must be held to account.  Many also reiterated their delegations’ support for MINUSCA — describing its work as “more important than ever” — and noted that they will vote for its mandate renewal in November.

“The democratic process is anything but easy,” said the representative of Indonesia, calling for efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Central African Republic both during and beyond the election.  Noting the many current logistical challenges — which are especially difficult due to COVID-19 — he urged all stakeholders to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Meanwhile, some 2.6 million people still require humanitarian assistance, a situation which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and ongoing attacks against humanitarian workers. 

The representative of France echoed expressions of support for an inclusive, transparent and peaceful electoral process based on the Constitution.  Noting that preparations for the polls are running late, endangering them, he said dialogue among the stakeholders is essential to prevent an increase in tensions.  Stressing that the electoral process should not obscure the need to make more progress in implementing the 2019 peace agreement, he called on the parties to redouble their efforts — including by deploying mixed security units.  Support for security sector reform also remains essential, he said. 

China’s delegate welcomed progress in consolidating peace and pushing forward important reforms in the Central African Republic, while noting that the election is crucial to maintaining those gains.  Regarding the participation of refugees, he called for respect for Bangui’s own electoral decisions, while recalling that China has provided significant logistical support.  Pointing out that the Central African Republic’s national defence and security forces have recently been redeployed to some parts of the country for the first time, he said such measures require international support.  The Council should lift its arms embargo on the Central African Republic at an early date, he added.

The representative of Niger described the upcoming elections as a great step forward for the Central African Republic, welcoming the authorities’ preparations.  Calling for the relaunch of a consultative framework to ensure dialogue during the electoral process — along with the full support of international partners — he said dialogue between national actors, including at the local level, is critical for stability.  He joined other speakers in applauding the efforts of humanitarian workers in the country in the face of COVID-19, while also asking donors to further support them and fill remaining humanitarian funding gaps.

Also participating were the representatives of Estonia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, United States and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.

Briefings

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), speaking via videoconference, introduced the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2020/994) and outlined recent developments on the ground.  Noting that today’s meeting is taking place at a crucial time for the Central African Republic, he said the country has a unique opportunity to leverage recent democratic gains and further stabilize the security situation.  Citing advances in restoring State authority and ensuring justice, he said that, since 2015, MINUSCA and its partners have helped stakeholders in the Central African Republic to draft a new electoral code, resulting in the development of a computerized and reliable electoral roster. 

Reiterating his appeal to the Central African Republic and neighbouring States to allow refugees to participate in the electoral process, he nevertheless welcomed a rise in women’s participation, noting that they now comprise 46 per cent of the electoral roll.  “Central Africa is very well on its way to holding successful elections,” he said, calling on actors to refrain from spreading misinformation.  He called on the country’s partners to fill outstanding funding gaps, including a $4 million shortfall in the basket fund created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and an overall gap of some $17 million in election funding.  Describing the situation on the ground as tense, he said the 27 December election currently has 16 candidates, including two women, some of whom have already cast doubt on the country’s peace process.  While those tensions have not compromised the Central African Republic’s ability to carry out an election, all parties should commit to a conduct good code and to a peaceful electoral process. 

“The path to peace is long and winding,” he continued.  Among other things, MINUSCA has been able to open a wider regional dialogue; push forward the Central African Republic’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; support the redeployment of State troops; and restore basic services to the population.  “We now need to pick up the pace,” he said, welcoming support from the European Union and other partners.  He called for support for the Special Criminal Court as well as the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, warning that the country’s current political activities should not be allowed to eclipse the urgent humanitarian situation.  MINUSCA will continue to take all necessary steps to protect civilians, civilian infrastructure and humanitarian workers, he said, thanking the Council for assigning the Mission a robust electoral support mandate.

SMAЇL CHERGUI, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, agreed that there have been several promising recent developments in the Central African Republic.  Among other strides, the national electoral authority has successfully worked with voters on the ground — as well as a limited diaspora — and more than 2 million voters have been registered to date.  Taking note of the Government’s statement on “insurmountable obstacles” in registering refugees residing in neighbouring States, he asked for more information on that matter.  He welcomed the release of two police officers who had been taken hostage by the Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R) armed group, while calling for the release of one remaining officer, and stressed that all efforts must be aimed at implementing the country’s peace agreement.

Describing a notable decrease in violence since MINUSCA helped Bangui expand the redeployment of State authority across the country, he called on all Central Africans to distance themselves from any statements that could undermine social cohesion — especially rumours and “fake news” — and for international support to the Government at this critical juncture.  Hailing the growing dialogue between the Government and civil society, he said the holding of elections must be the top priority for all actors.  More support is needed, including from the Council, for humanitarian efforts to assist internally displaced persons.  In that vein, he welcomed plans for senior United Nations officials to travel to the Central African Republic in coming weeks, which will demonstrate the Organization’s continued support for the peace process.

KOEN VERVAEKE, Managing Director for Africa of the European External Action Service, said that only transparent, credible elections can pave the way to a peaceful future in the Central African Republic.  Towards that end, the European Union is providing over half the budget for the electoral process, he noted.  He stressed that it is now critical for all stakeholders in the country to act in a responsible fashion.  Transparency of the media is essential in that context.  The next steps will be even more crucial following the recent modification of the electoral law and will require careful preparation and attention, he said, adding that the European Union stands ready to help in this respect.

Welcoming advances in the peace process, he said that much more must be done and called for revitalizing the peace agreement, particularly relaunching, and if necessary, reviewing its follow-up mechanisms.  The accord needs new impetus, but without compromising it core.  No impunity must be allowed in that context.  He called on the guarantors and facilitators to redouble efforts in support of the accord and its implementation.  The European Union will continue to be among the strongest supporters of the Central-African authorities and population in their efforts towards peace and reconciliation, democracy and recovery.  “To that end, we are mobilizing all our instruments — political, humanitarian, cooperation development, security and crisis management, including through a new civilian common security and defence policy mission — to accompany the Central African Republic on the path of State-building, rule of law and realizing its economic opportunities.  A path where civil society, women and youth need to be given a greater role,” he said.  Paying tribute to MINUSCA and its leadership, he recommended the extension of its mandate.

Statements

NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France), pointing to the challenges faced by the Central African Republic in security, health, gender-based violence and other areas, condemned all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  An inclusive, transparent and peaceful electoral process based on the Constitution is also a current priority.  Noting that preparations for the polls are running late, endangering them, he said that dialogue among the stakeholders is essential to prevent an increase in tensions.  The electoral process should also not obscure the need to make more progress in implementing the peace agreement.  He called on all parties to bolster their efforts in that regard, including by deploying mixed security units.  Support for reform of the security services is essential.  He looked forward to further international support for the country and, in that light, called for the extension of MINUSCA’s mandate.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) called for efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Central African Republic during and beyond the election.  “The democratic process is anything but easy,” he said, citing many logistical challenges — which are especially difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.  All stakeholders should continue to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The Bangui Framework remains the guiding road map for the peace process, and national ownership is critical to implementing it.  Noting that some 2.6 million people in the Central African Republic currently require humanitarian assistance, he said the pandemic and ongoing attacks against humanitarian workers have only worsened the situation.  MINUSCA’s role is more important than ever, he said, calling for an end to attacks against its personnel.  As the Council member with the largest troop deployment to MINUSCA, Indonesia prioritizes the safety of its staff and will support the Mission’s upcoming mandate renewal.  It also continues to advocate for the introduction of benchmarks for lifting the arms embargo against the Central African Republic, he said.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) commended MINUSCA for progress in implementing its mandate despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.  Emphasizing that the upcoming Central African elections are a crucial opportunity to cement stability, he stressed that they must be inclusive, particularly of women.  Noting encouraging steps forward made by the Government, including adoption of the Child Protection Code, he looked forward to operationalization of the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Justice Commission.  He condemned continued attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers, calling for a firm, unequivocal stance in the use of sanctions in that context.  He also called for full implementation of the peace agreement to ensure long-lasting stability in the country.

NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) said that holding the elections will be a great step forward for the Central African Republic.  He welcomed the actions of the authorities in preparing for the elections despite great obstacles.  Noting that refugees have not yet been included in the process, he welcomed, however, efforts to include women.  He called for the relaunch of the consultative framework to ensure dialogue during the electoral process, along with the full support of international partners for that framework.  Dialogue between all country actors, including peace and reconciliation at the local level, are critical for stability, he stressed.  Applauding the efforts of humanitarian workers in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he called on donors to further support them and fill humanitarian funding gaps and also appealed to groups that are not yet part of the peace process to cease attacks and sign on to the agreement.  He called for renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate and reiterated Niger’s continuing, strong support for the Central African Republic and its Government, in efforts to restore peace and stability.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed hope that the current tensions and mistrust outlined by the briefers can be overcome, as well as regret that obstacles to the participation of refugees outside the Central African Republic remain.  Welcoming efforts to enhance women’s participation, he voiced concern over continued misinformation campaigns that target MINUSCA.  More efforts are needed to preserve the peace and reconciliation agreement.  He also expressed concern about the security situation — which is marked by continued violence against civilians, peacekeepers and other security personnel — as well as about the inadequate funding of the country’s humanitarian response plan.  All of those existing crises have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, calling for an increase in official development assistance (ODA), innovative debt relief for countries hard-hit by the virus and for the equitable distribution of a future COVID-19 vaccine.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) echoed concerns raised by other speakers about the misinformation campaign currently targeting MINUSCA, as well as calls for refugees living outside the Central African Republic to be able to participate in its election.  A new impetus is needed for the implementation of the peace agreement, and those that have violated its terms must be held to account.  Noting that Germany is a major donor of humanitarian assistance to the Central African Republic, he called on others — especially countries that provide it with weapons — to boost their support to its humanitarian funds.  He went on to condemn attacks against the “Blue Helmets” and humanitarian workers, whose work is central to providing relief at this critical time.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) welcomed the timely preparation of elections in the Central African Republic, which need to be credible.  He stressed, however, that the peace agreement must make further progress and those responsible for continued violence must be brought to justice.  All necessary follow-up mechanisms must be launched for those reasons.  Emphasizing that the Central African people must be able to live in dignity, he noted that COVID-19 has exacerbated hunger and that schools are vulnerable to violence.  His country has offered support to face those challenges.  In addition, he expressed support for the renewal of a robust mandate for MINUSCA and said cooperation between all stakeholders is critical for the Mission’s success.  Attacks on MINUSCA were therefore of great concern.  He pledged his country’s engagement in support of the Central African Republic even after the completion of its term on the Security Council.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) paid tribute to all those serving in MINUSCA, condemning attacks against its personnel.  The 2019 peace agreement must be protected, including through the imposition of sanctions against those who impede its progress.  He called for the end of impunity for all human rights violations, particularly sexual violence.  Welcoming the conduct of preparations for elections, he regretted that displaced persons had not yet been included.  His country has contributed more than $500,000 to promote the inclusion of women and other vulnerable groups.  All stakeholders must meet their obligations in the next few months to ensure successful polls.  Noting increases in his country’s contribution to humanitarian relief, he asked others to increase their input as well.  Supporting the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate, he called on all Central African parties to meet their obligations to the peace agreement.

DAI BING (China) welcomed positive progress in consolidating peace and pushing forward important reforms in the Central African Republic.  Noting that the upcoming election is crucial to maintain those gains, he expressed hope that it will be convened as scheduled.  Regarding the participation of refugees, he called for respect for Bangui’s own electoral decisions, while recalling that China has provided significant logistical support.  He went on to condemn recent attacks against MINUSCA, pointing out that the Central African Republic’s national defence and security forces have recently been redeployed to some parts of the country for the first time.  Such measures require strong international support.  The Council should lift its arms embargo on the Central African Republic at an early date, he said, also noting that Bangui has put forward a request to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic for the lifting of some restrictions amid the challenges posed by COVID-19.  He hoped that the sanctions committee will respond affirmatively.

DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) took note of Bangui’s efforts to ensure national stability and create an environment conducive to the conduct of elections, despite increasing violence and escalating tensions.  Attacks by armed groups — including against civilians — poses a serious challenge, especially in the last stages of electoral preparations.  Implementing the peace agreement is the only viable path forward, he said, also calling on the signatories to abide by the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Continued technical and financial support is required from the international community to help fill funding gaps for the upcoming election and to alleviate the humanitarian effects of COVID-19.  Underlining the important role being played by regional stakeholders, including the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), he reiterated Viet Nam’s support for MINUSCA and called for full respect for the safety and security of peacekeepers.

RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States), pledging his country’s continued partnership with the Central African Republic in efforts to foster peace and prosperity, urged all stakeholders to do their part in implementing the peace agreement.  He called on facilitators to help restore commerce and stop the flow of weapons into the country and to support the establishment of the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission and the Special Criminal Court.  The United States will continue to support access to justice for all, among other priorities.  Calling on the Central African Republic Government to build on momentum for inclusive elections shown by the promotion of women’s participation, he expressed disappointment that refugees and displaced persons are not yet included.  Noting that the United States has provided special COVID-19 assistance in its yearly contributions to the Central African Republic, he acknowledged that the challenges in that country are daunting.  As MINUSCA’s mandate is equally difficult, full staffing for its positions are needed.  Noting high allegations of sexual exploitation, he called for action to fulfil Security Council measures to counter such violations and for the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) welcomed progress in implementing the 2019 peace agreement, adding that those who were not fulfilling their obligations or have not signed the agreement must do so in the interest of the future of the Central African Republic.  Emphasizing the importance of free and fair elections as well, he welcomed the President’s efforts to reduce tensions ahead of the polls and to ensure an inclusive process.  Noting that the Russian Federation is supporting the battle-readiness of the Central African Armed Forces, he argued that strict sanctions imposed on that country are not allowing it to deal with crime and other security threats.  The initiatives for delisting could help resolve that problem.  The great challenges facing Central Africans will require the participation of all stakeholders, he stressed.  He pledged his country’s continued engagement in the situation.

For information media. Not an official record.