General elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) next year will be a crucial step towards restoring stability to the country through a democratic process, but the polls must be free, fair and transparent, the United Nations envoy to the African nation told the Security Council today.
“The UN and our international partners have provided considerable technical and financial support to the Independent Electoral Commission entrusted with the implementation of the electoral process,” said Sahle Work-Zewde, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to CAR.
“There have been glitches along the way, but with a high degree of commitment from the Government working together with the Independent Electoral Commission and the opposition, solutions have been found and all major political obstacles lifted,” Ms. Work-Zewde said. The elections are scheduled for 23 January.
She noted, however, that despite relative stability in the CAR’s capital, Bangui, and the south-western region, thanks to the presence of the national army, the eastern parts of the country remained prone to persistent acts of banditry, attacks by foreign armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and local politic-military factions that are not part of the peace process.
“The lack of security is responsible for the considerable unnecessary loss of life, suffering and displacement of people,” Ms. Work-Zewde told the 15-member Council. “The Government is not in a position to address this state of affairs without adequate means and resources.”
On the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, the Special Representative said the verification of former combatants had been completed in the north-west, but the recent violence in the north-east has not allowed the exercise to be carried out there.
“The development of a national reintegration strategy for ex-combatants, which is key to the DDR process will serve as an important incentive for armed groups to disarm and demobilize,” she said.
Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium, who serves as chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission’s Country-Specific Configuration for CAR, said that reforming the country’s security sector as well as entrenching good governance and rule of law will remain priority objectives.
“At our Configuration’s request, UNDP [UN Development Programme] is currently working on a strategy paper for Rule of Law that will identify the priorities in this field, which should include impunity and human rights violations,” Mr. Grauls said, adding that special attention will also be paid to the issue of women in relation to peace and security, child protection and the rights of internally displaced persons.
In his latest report on CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the Council extend the mandate of the UN peacebuilding office in the country for another year to enable it to continue to facilitate the process of restoring stability.
The mandate of the office, known as BINUCA, is due to expire on 31 December.
“In the coming year, BINUCA will continue to implement its mandate within an integrated framework and in close cooperation with national authorities and the partners of the Central African Republic, with a particular focus on the reconciliation process, including through the completion of the electoral process,” Mr. Ban says in his report.
BINUCA is also helping the national authorities to implement the DDR programme, and providing support to efforts to restore state authority throughout the country, reform the security sector and promote the rule of law and respect of human rights.