Despite a successful presidential election and other noteworthy progress, the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to be plagued by violence and volatility, the UN peacekeeping chief told the Security Council on Tuesday.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, praised the peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, in providing security to thousands of internally displaced, helping to safeguard democratic order and protecting civilians "in the face of persisting attempts by the armed group coalition to asphyxiate the country".
However, notwithstanding these "outstanding efforts", he upheld: "The situation remains very volatile".
Alarming humanitarian situation
At the same time, insecurity has blocked the passage of more than a thousand trucks carrying lifesaving supplies, food and medical necessities, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ongoing violence has also resulted in "significant renewed displacement and increased humanitarian needs and pushed civilians to again seek refuge in neighbouring countries", said Mr. Lacroix.
The Central African Republic "is now the most dangerous place for humanitarian work", he added, noting it that it accounted for over 46 per cent of worldwide incidents registered by international non-governmental organizations last month.
Glimmer of hope
And yet, in "a major achievement", the country is on track to successfully conclude a democratic transfer of power within the constitutional timeline, according to the UN official.
Two years since its signing, the Political Agreement remains "the only viable framework for peace", said Mr. Lacroix.
"It is now essential that these democratic gains are preserved by completing the electoral process and advancing a peaceful resolution to the crisis", he asserted.
To start "healing the national trauma", the UN peacekeeping chief advocated for "inclusive and meaningful dialogue... without delay" and for the international community to support national efforts by "promoting cooperation and coherence in the peace process".
Bolstering the mission
Mr. Lacroix told the Council that as "the main guarantor of security for the civilian population", MINUSCA is addressing the volatile situation and responding to increased protection needs.
However, warning that the mission is being overstretched, he recommended the addition of 2,750 military and 940 police personnel to "strengthen MINUSCA's ability to implement its priority mandated tasks... namely, to protect civilians, create the conditions for progress in the political process, and to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance".
Against the backdrop of seven peacekeepers killed in hostile attacks during electoral violence and two others in the line of duty during the same period, Mr. Lacroix upheld that an augmentation would also contribute to safeguarding UN staff.
A reinforcement would "address increased needs, as well as the existing capacity of MINUSCA", he continued, pointing to ongoing efforts to optimize the peacekeeping mission's performance.
Mr. Lacroix painted a picture of rising human rights violations, increased civilian abductions and killings. Attacks against humanitarian workers, extrajudicial executions and conflict-related sexual violence are also on the rise, and he said that advancing peaceful dialogue must be coupled with fighting impunity, including for grave crimes committed in the electoral period.
"This will require a commitment by national authorities to pursue accountability for violations by State and non-State actors, while safeguarding human rights and preserving and expanding civic space", he said.
The UN peacekeeping chief underscored the importance of reviewing and adjusting security needs with a view to re-establishing operational readiness for national defence and internal security forces.
"The Central African people have suffered so much and deserve our steadfast support and attention", he said, while also recognizing the "bravery and sacrifice" of MINUSCA personnel in this "exceptionally challenging context".
Meanwhile, Rita Laranjinha, Managing Director for the European External Action Service in Africa, outlined for ambassadors her support for all efforts to end impunity for rights abuses, as a key component of reconciliation and a sign of respect to and justice for victims and their families.
She stressed that official corruption must end and urged prompt attention to the "disinformation" and hate speech that endanger peacekeepers and undermine trust in governance.
Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Director of youth-led peacebuilding organization URU, spoke of a climate of "fear" that permeates much of CAR society, but maintained that the cry for peace was still being heard, loud and clear.
"Our hopes are stronger than our fears", she said, calling for redoubled efforts to "silence the guns" and honour the dreams of communities for peace.