Despite deteriorating border security, humanitarian and human rights challenges, the Central African Republic (CAR) is committed to a constitutional referendum and local elections, the Security Council heard on Tuesday.
Valentine Rugwabiza head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA) briefed ambassadors on important progress which has been made in the implementation of a key 2019 peace agreement between the Government and armed groups.
She emphasized the significance of the dissolution following “active engagements” by the Government in April, of two armed groups and three other militant factions – all signatories to the agreement.
However, for the development to produce real dividends, she underscored that the former combatants needed to be rapidly disarmed and reintegrated back into civil society.
She called on the CARs partners to provide additional support to enable this to happen.
Constitutional referendum, local elections
The MINISCA chief welcomed the earlier announcement by President of the CAR to hold a referendum on a new constitution on 30 July.
However, she expressed regret that this nationwide initiative has resulted in a temporary suspension of preparations for local elections, which are much needed to empower communities across the country and to facilitate the decentralization of the peace process.
The MINUSCA chief also highlighted her joint visit with the Prime Minister of CAR to Sam Ouandja, near the Sudanese border, which has been under the control of armed groups for decades.
Coordinated action by national defence and security forces supported by the Mission, has allowed to re-establish State authority there. Humanitarian and development assistance has also resumed.
“The ongoing transformation in Sam Ouandja shows that it is possible to break decade-long cycles of conflicts and re-establish State authority even in regions which have known limited or no state presence,” believes MINUSCA chief.
Ms. Rugwabiza warned ambassadors that there were increasing tensions and a rapidly deteriorating security situation at the country’s borders with Chad, South Sudan and Sudan, following the ongoing military power struggle which erupted in Khartoum in April.
CAR now faces an influx of refugees and returnees in urgent need of protection and assistance.
She said landmines and other munitions also continue to pose a significant threat to civilians, peacekeepers, and humanitarian actors in the country. The Mission is continuing to tackle the deadly threat.
Human rights violations continue to cause serious concern, too. The UN presence in CAR continues to encourage the authorities to initiate independent and transparent investigations into violations, abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.
Valentine Rugwabiza reiterated that the Mission itself is sticking closely to the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy on human rights violations, including sexual misconduct.
On 9 June, the UN announced the repatriation of a unit of 60 military personnel from MINUSCA over serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against some members. The Mission, stipulated its chief, “will spare no effort to prevent new cases and ensure that all uniformed and civilian personnel honour the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy including by enhancing preventive and response measures.”
Role of women
The head of UN Women, Sima Bahous, also briefed ambassadors on conditions facing women across the country, commending national laws in place which protect women’s rights.
As an example, she highlighted the law stipulating all decision making bodies must have a quota of at least 35 per cent women, which is in effect until 2027. But, she regretted, “it is their inadequate implementation, enforcement, or funding, that is failing the women of the Central African Republic.”
The years of conflict and humanitarian crisis have exacerbated many issues that affect women and girls limiting their ability to participate ‘fully, equally and meaningfully’ in their communities, said Ms. Bahous.
She said during the coming referendum and elections, it was important for women activists to be allowed to speak their mind freely, while women’s organizations should have the resources they need to bolster peace and social cohesion in their communities.
Women candidates should be allowed to run for office without threats and harassment, she stressed.
She called on the international partners to work together with the government and civil society in the country to ensure those “upcoming milestones contribute to peace rather than risk further instability.”