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The successful holding of general elections had returned the Central African Republic to a path of sustainable peace, development and long-term peacebuilding, but hard realities remained, the United Nations senior official in the country told the Security Council this morning.
“Despite recent positive developments, it is critical that partners remain engaged and redouble their assistance to the country across all thematic areas of need, in order to take advantage of the window of opportunity that is before us,” said Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). He was presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2016/482) on developments in the country and UNOCA’s activities there over the last six months.
In February, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the country’s former Prime Minister, won a presidential runoff, setting the stage for the first elected Government in three years for a poverty-stricken country just emerging from a devastating civil war, he said. Mr. Touadéra enjoyed widespread support and the population wanted and needed change for the better, according to the Special Representative.
“At the same time, the challenges before the Central African Republic remain immense, in the context of ongoing, serious protection and humanitarian needs, crushing poverty and urgent requirements in the areas of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation, as well as on security-sector reform,” he said.
Armed groups still controlled large swathes of the country and the Government needed political, programmatic and financial aid to re-establish State authority, he said. He commended the Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for their invaluable support to date and encouraged them to continue it during the country’s post-transition phase.
Political tensions in other parts of Central Africa linked to recent or upcoming electoral processes had undermined ongoing work to consolidate stability, development and democracy, as well as subregional integration, he said, pledging to use his good offices to engage with stakeholders to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes.
On Boko Haram, he said the collective efforts of the Lake Chad Basin countries had reduced the terrorist group’s ability to carry out frequent attacks. Cross-border operations by the Multinational Joint Task Force had captured its fighters, freed captives and reclaimed territory. Boko Haram still posed a serious threat to regional stability, however, and the number of internally displaced persons fleeing its violence continued to rise.
International assistance was crucial to end the threat posed by the group, he said, urging support for the Task Force and pledging to work closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel to engage Governments and organizations in the subregion towards that end.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to threaten security and since December it had notably increased its alleged attacks in the Central African Republic, extending its reach to new areas and to larger, less isolated populations. In response, he said, UNOCA had continued efforts to fill coordination gaps, convening a biannual meeting of LRA focal points in April and a meeting of the African Union’s Joint Coordination Mechanism in May to mobilize resources of the Regional Task Force — a particularly important concern given Uganda’s decision to withdraw from the Force in the near future.
The Special Representative also reported progress in setting up a regional strategy for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Also addressing the Council, Ahmad Allam-Mi, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States, said ECCAS had deployed two peacebuilding cooperation missions to the Central African Republic to address the crisis. It had approved funding in November 2015 to ensure elections were conducted peacefully and was now focused on preventing a return to violence. ECCAS was the first regional economic community in Africa to adopt a maritime security strategy to implement Council resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012).
States of the Gulf of Guinea were finalizing plans to operationalize a new regional coordination centre in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to be funded through the end of the year by ECCAS, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, he said. He appealed to States, institutions, shipping firms, fishing and petroleum companies that used the maritime resources of the Gulf to pledge support during the donors’ conference in July in Yaoundé.
ECCAS was supporting Cameroon and Chad in the fight against Boko Haram and it had approved $100 million in that regard, he said. The international community must increase support to enable those States to eradicate the terrorist group.
Central African States were particularly affected by the post-electoral conflicts in Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the political and humanitarian crises caused by Boko Haram and the LRA in the Central African Republic and by two terrorist groups in Libya.
The Community was working on institutional reform to address structural financial and technical challenges, in coordination with the African Union, to create an organizational model compatible with international standards and the strategies and programming of the Union’s Agenda 2063, he said. The international community must lend its support to that effort.
Furthermore, he noted that the Community had on 13 May launched a free-trade zone focused on infrastructure development and environmental conservation, as well as issues of peace and security.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 10:31 a.m.