Central African Republic in ‘critical phase’ of transition, UN peacekeeping chief

NEW YORK: Despite a volatile security situation and ongoing fighting throughout the country, the Central African Republic, CAR, is now entering “a critical phase” in its transition to stability and democracy, the top United Nations peacekeeping official has told the Security Council, as he urged the international community to remain engaged in the war-torn country.

In his briefing to the 15-member Council, the Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, spotlighted a potentially explosive situation in the CAR amid continuing violent clashes between the Seleka alliance and anti-Balaka militia in areas surrounding the capital, Bangui.

Thousands of people are estimated to have been killed in CAR as a result of a conflict that erupted when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels launched attacks in December 2012. The violence has since taken on increasingly sectarian overtones.

Nevertheless, noted Mr. Ladsous, the political process is “once again moving forward” as stakeholders worked to convene the peace-building Bangui Forum early next year, and to complete the election process in August 2015.

Voicing a degree of optimism, he explained that while the timeframe for elections remained “extremely tight” and preparations for the vote were proceeding slowly, various leaders of the two belligerent factions had already publicly expressed their support for the national dialogue process, including participation in the Bangui Forum.

The Forum itself, the Under-Secretary-General pointed out, would then function as the starting point for a longer term reconciliation process for all levels of society.

“A successful and timely Bangui Forum will be vital to prepare the ground for the planned constitutional referendum as well as legislative and presidential elections,” Mr. Ladsous continued.

“The success of the process will rely on a significantly strengthened commitment of the Central African Republic authorities, as well as the political, operational and financial support of the international community. A conducive security environment will also be required and necessitate progress in the political process.” The UN official, however, described the “delicate” situation on the ground with civilians under constant threat and rampant impunity for those committing acts of violence. In addition, the State remained “weak, if not totally absent” as intercommunity violence continued to rage across the eastern and central parts of the country.

Within this environment, he said, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR, MINUSCA, remained steadfast on protecting civilians through an expanded troop deployment and focused on supporting the National Electoral Authority’s preparations for next year’s elections.

“The Central African Republic is entering a critical phase at a time when international attention to the crisis is starting to wane. The risks remain high that additional disruptions in the political process and/or the security situation could put the transitional process in jeopardy,” concluded Mr. Ladsous, who warned against any potentially disruptive delays in the scheduled August 2015 elections.

“Central African authorities must stay the course and the country’s regional and international partners should remain engaged in a sustained and coordinated manner in order to provide the Central African Republic with the assistance necessary to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of its actions.”