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Central African Republic: Elections are ‘unique opportunity’ for peace

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Voter registration in Bangui, Central African Republic. MINUSCA/Hervé Serefio

The UN Secretary-General has called for parties in the Central African Republic (CAR) to prioritize national dialogue and consensus-building ahead of elections scheduled to begin in December. 

“The coming period will be decisive for the country”, António Guterres told a high-level meeting on the country, held on Thursday.  His remarks were shared after the meeting, which was held behind closed doors. 

“The presidential, legislative and local elections represent a unique opportunity for national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace, as well as the country’s constitutional order and democratic achievements.” 

A UN peacekeeping operation has been in the CAR since 2014 following intercommunal violence, largely between a mainly Muslim coalition known as Séléka, and a mostly Christian alliance, commonly referred to as the Anti-Balaka.   

Despite an agreement signed last year between the Government and 14 armed groups, the CAR continues to suffer violence and human rights abuses. Ongoing humanitarian and development needs, which have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also remain an urgent priority.  

A crucial step 

The Secretary-General said the elections also constitute a crucial step for the continuity of the political process, and he upheld the February 2019 accord as “the only viable framework” for lasting peace in the country.   

“The authorities of the Central African Republic and all national stakeholders have a historic responsibility to ensure the proper conduct of these elections, which must be free, transparent, safe, inclusive and within the constitutional time limits”, he stated. 

“I therefore call upon all stakeholders to prioritize national dialogue and consensus-building, in a spirit of respect and tolerance between different ethnic groups and religions.” 

Putting people at the centre 

The UN chief stressed that citizens, including those who fled to neighbouring countries, must reap the benefits of efforts towards peace and democracy. 

“All segments of the population of the Central African Republic, in particular women, young people, internally displaced persons and refugees, must be at the centre of efforts to consolidate democracy and, consequently, of this electoral process”, he said. 

The Secretary-General reported that there has been progress in implementing the agreement, including in legislative reforms, extension of state authority across the country, and a process for disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating combatants. 

Security has also improved in some areas, thanks to the presence of the UN mission, known by the French acronym MINUSCA, which supports the authorities. 

 However, Mr. Guterres was concerned about the “significant number” of human rights violations and breaches of the agreement.  

“The commitments made by all signatories must be respected”, he said, while strongly condemning attacks targeting civilians, humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers.

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The Gambia to Strengthen Health Care Delivery in the Face of COVID-19

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $30 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA)* to improve the quality and utilization of essential health services in The Gambia. 

The Essential Health Services Strengthening Project will provide performance-based financing grants to health facilities, scale up community engagement to improve utilization of quality health services; and build resilient and sustainable health systems to support the delivery of quality health services.  This will include the renovation of selected health facilities and the establishment of a national blood transfusion service. 

“The project will build on the success of the Maternal and Child Nutrition and Health Results project and the ongoing COVID-19 Preparedness and Response project to improve access and use of primary health care services for all in The Gambia,” said Feyifolu Boroffice, World Bank Resident Representative to The Gambia.

In the long term, it is expected that the project will help reduce maternal and child mortality, therefore contributing to improve The Gambia’s Human Capital Index. 

For Samuel Mills, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project, “the project would address key constraints to effective health service delivery with a focus on results, thereby contributing to achieving universal health coverage in The Gambia.” 

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DR Congo’s fragile detente ‘could yet unravel’

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Female peacekeepers from Tanzania interact with women and children in Beni, DRC. TANZBATT 7/Ibrahim Mayambua

Planning for a drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is well underway, but much work still remains to be done to put the country firmly on the path to long-term stability and sustainable development, the Security Council heard today.

Leila Zerrougui, Head of the UN’s Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), urged Council members to continue to support its efforts to help the Congolese government and people maintain the gains made since its establishment in 2010.

Discussing the political situation, she said that in the peaceful transfer of power that following the 2018 elections, the political class accepts – “and even appreciates” – the opportunities offered by the ruling coalition between the Cap pour le Changement (CACH) and the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC).

Dangers lurk

However, in addition to persistent tension between coalition members, there is a risk that politicking and positioning ahead of elections in 2023 will overshadow the governance reforms and stabilization measures that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs, she said.

“The current political dispensation remains fragile and could yet unravel,” she said.  “At the same time, it has the potential to sustain and advance the gains which have already been made – should all actors work towards this goal.”

Ms. Zerrougui said that she is sparing no effort in exercising her good offices, meeting regularly with stakeholders from across the political spectrum, urging them to focus on implementing reforms to address the pressing needs of the Congolese people.

Thin line of stability

“In doing so, I have sought to impress upon all my interlocutors that there is a difference between normal political competition and behaviour that undermines the stability of the country,” she said.

On the future of MONUSCO, she said that the Council will soon be presented with a joint strategy for its progressive and phased drawdown, with President Félix Tshisekedi requesting a progressive transfer of tasks from the Mission to the Government.

Elaborating, she said that the Government agrees that in the coming years, MONUSCO will gradually consolidate its footprint in the three Congolese provinces – North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri – where conflict persists, while also pursuing its good offices work and institutional strengthening at the national level.

Withdrawal ‘relatively soon’

Meanwhile, she added, MONUSCO should be able to withdraw “relatively soon” from the Kasai region, while an improved security situation should enable the Mission to scale back its military presence there in Tanganyika.

She went on to say that MONUSCO remains focused on improving the implementation of its protection-of-civilians mandate – including by deploying new technologies such as unarmed drones – alongside working with local communities and civil society to promote reconciliation and monitor human rights.

She also appealed to the Council to support MONUSCO’s efforts to foster a community-based approach to the reintegration of ex-combatants in the east of the country.

That approach involves building the resilience of communities receiving ex-combatants and providing for legitimate needs, while also removing incentives for former fighters to form and join armed groups.

Avoid past mistakes

“It is vital … that we avoid repeating the experiences of the past,” when large numbers of ex-combatants were granted amnesty and integrated into the Congolese security forces, where the prospect of obtaining a rank was an incentive to form an armed group, she said.

MONUSCO’s mandate dates back to July 2010, when it took over from an earlier UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).

It had just over 18,000 deployed personnel as of August, including more than 13,000 contingent troops.  Its approved budget for the 12 months to June 2020, was $1.09 billion.

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Guinea: Steer clear of campaign hate speech

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Guineans in the capital city of Conakry. World Bank/Dominic Chavez

Given the history of intercommunal violence in Guinea, two high-level UN Officials voiced concern on Tuesday over the risk of “incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence” as the country gears up for elections on 18 October.

“There are already serious indications of rising intolerance and confrontation, including among youth groups, and media outlets amplifying messages of hate”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

Along with Pramila Patten, UN Acting Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she urged political leaders, particularly candidates campaigning for the elections in Guinea, to refrain from invoking ethnic affiliations designed to raise tensions, and using intentionally provocative language.

Ms. Bachelet also called on all candidates to refrain from stirring up ethnic divisions, condemn any provocations and commit to peaceful participation in the electoral process.

Held accountable

Ms. Patten appealed to all leaders across the West African nation to stop themselves from instrumentalizing ethnicity or sowing seeds of division, for political gain. 

“Such maneuvers are extremely dangerous and must be stopped”, she asserted. “Any individual responsible for incitement to commit violence or atrocities will sooner or later be held accountable for their acts before a national or international court”.

The UN Special Adviser reminded the Government of its primary responsibility to protect all its populations from acts of violence – irrespective of ethnic or political affiliation. 

Moreover, she encouraged all concerned parties to resolutely commit to dialogue for a peaceful and transparent electoral process. 

Sexual violence persists

Recalling events in the capital city, Conakry, on 28 September 2009, when at least 109 women and girls were sexually victimized, simply on account of their political affiliation, the Special Representative warned that the threat of sexual violence continues, in many contexts – a tool to intimidate and punish political opponents, their family members and women human rights defenders.

Eleven years on, Ms. Patten instructed all Guinean political actors to send a strong message to end sexual violence once and for all.

Accountability pending

Against the backdrop of the reported use of excessive force by security forces during demonstrations in October 2019 and March 2020, both UN officials also stressed the need for accountability. 

Although the Government announced investigations into the violence – including killings – to date, there has been no further information on their outcome. 

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