COVID-19 exacerbating CAT vulnerabilities – UN peacekeeping chief


The Central African Republic (CAR) is progressing with preparations for presidential and legislative elections in December, but the political situation remains fragile and security conditions volatile during the COVID-19 pandemic, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said.

Briefing the Security Council this week, he condemned Sunday’s ambush in the west of the country on a joint UN Mission (MINUDCS))/National Defence Forces patrol by suspected members of the Retour, Réclamation et Rehabilitation (3R) armed group. Two national force soldiers were killed and seven wounded.

“The pandemic is exacerbating vulnerabilities”, Lacroix said when presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Stabilisation Mission in CAR.

Despite strides in implementing the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, signed in Bangui last February that agreement remains fragile – and the coming elections will be a test for all.

“We must redouble efforts in support of peace and stability across CAR, including using leverage,” he said, adding the Council’s active engagement was essential to avoid losing gains made since MINUSCA deployed in 2014.

He told the meeting via video-teleconference due to the coronavirus political parties are forming coalitions, ramping up public statements, announcing presidential candidates and challenging legal frameworks for the elections.

Political tensions were amplified when a group of parliamentarians moved to extend the tenures of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and the National Assembly should “unforeseen circumstances” force the elections to be delayed rejected by the Constitutional Court on 5 June Lacroix said.

MINUSCA chief Mankeur Ndiaye is working with partners to encourage political dialogue and support an environment conducive to peaceful, free and inclusive elections, Lacroix said, urging national actors to do more in engaging with each other and refrain from destabilising actions.

MINUSCA is supporting electoral preparations, which this week saw the launch of voter registration, but the question of whether refugees can vote, remains unresolved.

On the security situation Lacroix said some armed groups that signed the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation acknowledged the Secretary-General’s March call for a global ceasefire, while at the same time using violence for their own expansionist aims.

To protect civilians and discourage criminal activity by armed groups and militia in the north-west, MINUSCA reinforced its deployment in the area and carried out military operations t to stabilise the situation.

In response to 3R’s challenge to State authority, MINUSCA is conducting two operations to protect civilians in tandem with criminal investigations. MINUSCA also maintains “a robust posture” when engaging with national and local stakeholders.

Lacroix is concerned about ongoing violations of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and the announced intention by 3R leader Abbas Siddik not to participate in follow-up and monitoring mechanisms.

Ongoing clashes and the pandemic further exacerbate the humanitarian situation, the Under-Secretary-General added.

Some 2.6 million people – more than half the population – need humanitarian aid and protection, while partial closure of borders with Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) drives up the cost of imported goods, including basic food items.

The World Health Organisation this week reported 2 808 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CAR to date and 23 deaths.