Addressing the National Assembly of the Central African Republic (CAR) today, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the legislators that the country’s people had given them a clear mandate, and as such, he urged them not only to play their traditional role as parliamentarians, “but also as defenders of dialogue and reconciliation.”
“Reconciliation should be at the heart of all your efforts. To guide the country on the path of peace, reconciliation and development, it is essential to work together,” Mr. Eliasson said on the second day of his visit to the country, where he urged the Assembly to draw on the outcomes of the May 2015 Bangui Forum, a milestone in the country’s reconciliation process.
Noting that CAR faced “daunting” challenges – nearly one million Central Africans are displaced; half the population needs humanitarian assistance; and virtually all infrastructure and essential services must be rebuilt – Mr. Eliasson said moving forward would require addressing the root causes of the conflict, end impunity, promoting political openness and fighting against the marginalization of certain groups and certain communities.
“You, as parliamentarians, you play a crucial role. You have the power to enact legislation to ensure equality and the well-being of all Central Africans,” he said, adding that the Assembly members have the power to hold the Government to account on its management of the country “and to meet the needs and aspirations of men, women and children that you represent.”
More than three years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, was set up two years ago to protect civilians and assist with the political transition. The Mission now has a troop strength of nearly 10,000.
In his remarks, Mr. Eliasson said the month of October has been particularly violent, resulting in the tragic deaths of many people, which many injured, including in the capital, Bangui, as well as Bambari or Kaga Bandoro. “We have learned from these painful events and will do everything in our capacity to prevent such atrocities,” he said.
Strongly condemning the violence, he assured the Assembly of the determination of the United Nations “to shed light on the unfortunate incident last Monday in Bangui,” referring to demonstrations against the Government and the United Nations that were accompanied by violence on 24 October. “MINUSCA will support any request by the judicial authorities of the Central African Republic to that effect,” he continued, and the Mission is “unequivocally here to protect the Central African population and will do so impartially. We respect everyone's right to demonstrate peacefully and protect this right if necessary.”
“But I also call on you not to yield to provocative speeches or attempts to destabilize your new democratic institutions by the enemies of peace. We must all [stand] against those who want to prevent the peaceful and resolute march of the country towards more progress and shared prosperity," the UN deputy chief underscored.
Mr. Eliasson went on to reaffirm the deep commitment of the United Nations and the international community to honour fully their partnership with CAR, noting that the UN has provided support in areas such as humanitarian assistance, reconciliation, recovery and development, and through the presence of MINUSCA.
“In fulfilling our mission in your country, we will continue to make the protection of civilians a fundamental concern. In this regard, the Secretary-General and I will continue to require our peacekeepers and our personal exemplary conduct and strict compliance with our zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,” he stated.
In addition, cooperation among the Central African Government, the European Union, the UN and the World Bank, has led to the development of "national plan for recovery." This plan will be presented and discussed at the donor conference in Brussels on 17 November, which, Mr. Eliasson would attend as the head of the UN delegation.
“Together we must build […] a better future for the Central African people. The UN is here, at your side, in this noble and necessary mission,” concluded the UN deputy chief.