Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all parties in the Central African Republic (CAR) to forge ahead with preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for earlier this year but have been postponed several times.
In his latest report to the Security Council on developments in the impoverished and conflict-plagued country, Mr. Ban encouraged the United Nations-backed Independent Electoral Commission to continue with its work, “despite challenges surrounding the preparation of credible, transparent and inclusive elections.”
The polls were scheduled to be held in April, but then were pushed back to May following complaints by opposition groups. However, the Commission postponed the elections again, citing technical and logistical difficulties.
The Secretary-General urged the international community to continue supporting the CAR’s electoral process and Member States to contribute resources to an election fund set up by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
“These efforts would help to maintain the momentum generated by the inclusive political dialogue and facilitate the advent of a stable democracy founded on lasting peace and sustainable development,” he wrote.
Acknowledging the adoption of two constitutional amendments allowing President Francois Bozizé and the National Assembly to remain in office after their mandates expire, the report called on all sides to “show a high level of responsibility and respect for the constitutional order and to agree on a consensual approach to move the electoral process forward.”
Mr. Ban underscored the “critical need” for the Commission to swiftly formulate a realistic calendar for the polls, which come after a decade of sporadic conflict between Government and rebel forces.
While visiting the country in February, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed that the elections “presents a tremendous opportunity for the Central African Republic, both to show the world and the people of the Central African Republic that it can hold successful, free and fair elections, and to take a great leap forward towards securing a peaceful democratic future.”
In the new report, the Secretary-General also voiced concern over the slow pace of the implementation of the disarmament and demobilization phases of the reintegration process.
Wrapping up the scheme will help create an environment conducive to holding polls, he said, while “any further delay could lead to frustration on the part of ex-combatants waiting for disarmament and lead to a relapse into conflict.”
Mr. Ban also expressed concern over the disappearances of political leaders, especially at such a “fragile juncture” in the country’s peace and national reconciliation process.
“I call upon the authorities of the Central African Republic to clarify those occurrences and to remain firmly committed to ensuring the safety of the politico-military leaders who have joined the peace process.”
The UN Peacebuilding Support Office in CAR, know as BONUCA, set up in 2000, transformed into the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA) on 1 January in an effort to build on peace agreements between the Government and rebel groups signed in Libreville, Gabon, in 2008 and subsequent political talks.
Today the head of BINUCA and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the CAR, Sahle-Work Zewde, briefed the Council on the latest developments in the impoverished country.
Later, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, read out a press statement in which members noted “the consensual decision” on the postponement of the polls and called on all sides to play their part to ensure that free, fair and credible elections can be held.
The 15-member panel stressed “the importance that the Government of the CAR adopt and implement at an early date a realistic electoral timetable and budget that would foster increased support from the international community for the electoral process.”
The press statement also voiced concern at the slow place of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and urged all sides to step up measures in this area.
Meanwhile, the Council last month voted to end the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) by the end of this year after the Chadian Government requested the move and said it would assume full responsibility for protecting civilians on its territory.
The Council set up the mission in September 2007 to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people uprooted due to insecurity in the two countries and the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan.
The 15-member body ordered that MINURCAT’s military component be reduced from its current 3,300 troops to 2,200 military personnel – 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the CAR – by 15 July. Withdrawal of the remaining troops will begin on 15 October, and all military and civilian personnel are to be withdrawn by 31 December.