Ms. Rugwabiza, who also heads the UN Mission in the country, MINUSCA, presented its latest report covering developments in the wake of the 31 July constitutional referendum.
She said MINUSCA continues to support Government efforts to “decentralize” the peace process with armed groups, including recent initiatives to extend state presence in areas that have been stabilized through the Mission’s assistance.
“The strength and commitment of international financial partners and development actors in this regard remains central in order to build on the security gains that were so dearly obtained, be that through investments or stabilization programmes aimed at providing basic services, or through socio-economic lasting subsistence measures for the population,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.
Ms. Rugwabiza also welcomed President Faustin Toudera’s renewed commitment to speeding up implementation of the peace agreement, as expressed in his remarks to the UN General Assembly last month.
National ownership was again on display at a meeting to review the peace process, convened last Monday with the guarantors and facilitators of the accord and its joint roadmap.
The meeting highlighted the disbanding of nine signatory armed groups and their various wings, progress on DDR (disarmament demobilization and reintegration), security sector reform, border management, among other issues, and she said it was essential to build on this momentum.
Plans for local elections starting in October 2024 have also resumed, providing an opportunity to both step up resource mobilization and revise the electoral code in line with the new Constitution.
Volatile security situation
Meanwhile, the security situation remains volatile in certain areas outside the capital, Bangui, particularly in border regions.
MINUSCA has been strengthening operations in the prefectures of Upper Kotto and Vakanga to better protect civilians and deter threats by armed groups.
In Upper Mbomo, UN peacekeepers also facilitated their first joint deployment with the national defence forces to an area where they were previously absent, following an intensification in clashes between the UPC armed group and a new militia called Azande Ani Kpi Gbe.
War and peace
Ms. Rugwabiza said the militia this month informed MINUSCA of its decision to declare a ceasefire, join the DDR process and promote social cohesion.
“These results once again illustrate the effectiveness of concerted efforts, even if much remains to be done, including with regard to strengthening the capacities of national security and defense institutions,” she said.
Recent months have also seen the facilitation of the voluntary repatriation of former combatants from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) after more than 15 years in Upper Mbomo, where they presented a real and ongoing threat to civilians.
Similarly, she also welcomed an agreement signed in September between the CAR and South Sudan which should help boost coordinated response to cross-border threats.
The reporting period also saw an influx of refugees from Chad and war-torn Sudan, creating significant challenges and increasing humanitarian needs.
Critical shortfalls at MINUSCA
Turning to MINUSCA itself, Ms. Rugwabiza reported that the mission has been reconfiguring its security arrangements to optimize effectiveness. This includes reducing the number of operational temporary bases and improving living and working conditions, particularly for staff deployed in remote areas.
“In order to preserve the values of the United Nations and maintain the trust of the population everywhere that we operate, MINUSCA will continue to strengthen prevention and risk management of risks of sexual exploitation and abuse by working with the country team at the United Nations in order to assist victims that have been identified,” she said.
Increased surveillance has resulted in a reduction of new cases reported this year, and efforts will be increased in line with the UN’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, she added.
MINUSCA also faces critical gaps in air and land transport capacity, and in supply chain, inhibiting mobility. The situation is affecting the well-being, safety and security of peacekeepers, and also operational response.
For example, convoys can take up to several weeks just to travel from the capital to the northeast. Furthermore, most roads are impassable during the rainy season, which lasts seven months.
Ms. Rugabizwa said MINUSCA is planning to implement recommendations made in a recent global assessment of logistical capacity “if we are given the budget”, appealing to the Council for support.
She also paid tribute to the sacrifice of UN peacekeepers serving at the Mission, noting that three ‘blue helmets’ have been killed in “land transport accidents” this month alone.