Defense forces, soldiers from nearby countries and other security personnel have been fighting an “asymmetric war” against armed groups, sparking an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Mankeur Ndiaye, CAR Special Representative and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) voiced his concern over a military counter-offensive against the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – an alliance of armed groups that launched attacks against forces loyal to the Government ahead of the presidential vote in December, which returned incumbent Faustin-Archange Touadéra to power on 4 January.
“The result has been an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with new waves of displacement and 57% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance”, he said, addressing ambassadors in French, inside the Council chamber.
Widespread rights abuses
The Special Representative underscored that recent widespread rights abuses committed by State forces embolden armed groups, exacerbate fears of radicalization and compromise any chance of establishing trust between citizens and their leaders.
“This is a new trend that, if not careful, will ruin the meagre progress that has been hard won in the quest for social cohesion and national reconciliation”, he warned, adding that bilateral forces would be useful only if they contributed to protecting civilians from armed groups and creating an environment conducive to a lasting political solution.
Mr. Ndiaye also reported that conflict-related sexual violence in the first quarter of this year is five times higher than that of the last quarter of 2020.
Noting the development of a special investigative commission on abuses committed by CAR State forces and their partners, he said that MINUSCA intends to continue documenting rights violations to be reported publicly, to “preserve a framework for frank, transparent and constructive dialogue” with the authorities.
‘Scourge’ of IEDs
The looting and militarization of civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, hinder already inadequate access to basic services, and undermine the protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance, and peace and stability efforts, the MINUSCA chief said.
He also drew the Council’s attention to the frequency of explosive devices being deployed, which have restricted peacekeepers’ movement, hindered economic activities and reduce the mobility of MINUSCA and humanitarian actors.
“We have shared our concerns with the relevant national authorities and have encouraged the ratification of the relevant international conventions to have a mechanism for preventing and combating this scourge”, Mr. Ndiaye said.
The Mission’s mission
Pointing to the presence of international forces along with MINUSCA as diminishing the mission’s effectiveness, the UN official said that with the Council’s support, he would take “immediate measures” to create the optimal conditions to improve efficiency and enhance the performance of UN ‘blue helmets’.
He told Ambassadors that MINUSCA had received assurances that the President had instructed CAR military leaders to explore new ways of working with the mission.
Meanwhile, citing incidents against peacekeepers on 30 May and 19 June, the MINUSCA chief underscored that the safety of UN troops and personnel remains “an imperative”.
He also noted that hate speech and incitement to violence against MINUSCA and CAR partners have become “increasingly strident the past few months”.
“Today more than ever, we need the Council’s support”, he said, stressing that multifaceted threats endanger MINUSCA’s mandate and put peacekeepers and UN personnel at greater risk.
Mr. Ndiaye thanked the Security Council, Angola, the African Union (AU) and other international partners for their support and appealed for financial assistance to fill an estimated $9 million gap for local elections, early in 2022.
Noting that those elections should contribute significantly to decentralized governance, local development and the participation of many more citizens in political life, he said that President Touadéra and others in the political process have committed to complete the electoral cycle.
“We must seize this new opportunity to harmonize regional initiatives and encourage the new Government to mobilize the support of all international partners for the success of the inclusive political dialogue”, concluded the Special Representative.