Seriously concerned by widespread human rights violations and the “increasing cycle of violence and retaliation” in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacebuilding office in the country, authorized the use of force by European Union troops, and added travel bans and asset freezes to an arms embargo already in place. The 15-member Council unanimously adopted a new resolution expressing deep concern at the “continuing deterioration of the security situation in the CAR” which it said is characterized by a “total breakdown in law and order, the absence of the rule of law, religiously motivated targeted killings and arson.”By the text, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR (BINUCA) through 31 January 2015, to support for the implementation of the transition process by expediting the re-establishment of constitutional order and implementing the 2013 Libreville agreements which resulted in a temporary ceasefire and created a unity Government in which opposition figures were given key posts.The rebels claimed the Government failed to live up to its commitments, and the conflict reignited resulting in thousands of people killed in the past 10 months in violence that has recently taken on increasingly sectarian overtones, with mainly Christian militias, known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete), taking up arms against an alliance of mainly Muslim rebel groups – known, collectively, as ‘Séléka.’Included in today’s resolution is a call on CAR’s transitional government, led by newly appointed Catherine Samba-Panza, the former mayor of the capital city of Bangui, to speed up, with BINUCA’s support, progress towards “free and fair” elections. Those are to be held not later than February 2015, and if possible, in the second half of 2014.The Council members also called for the holding of national dialogue, in close coordination with the UN office, to promote reconciliation. Included also in BINUCA’s mandate is support for conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, and promotion and protection of human rights. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, supported by the UN human rights office and other UN entities, has described the human suffering in the country as “a crisis of epic proportions.”Brutality against children in the CAR has reaching unprecedented levels as youngsters are maimed, killed and beheaded, and amid rampant sexual violence, the world community must use all the tools at its disposal to stop the conflict, the Security Council was warned last week by UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui.The Council also today authorized a new international push in CAR, authorizing European troops to deploy an operation for an initial six months “to take all necessary measures” which in Security Council language translates to allowing the troops to use force.Member States, including CAR’s neighbours, are requested to support the EU action, in particular by facilitating personnel, equipment, provisions, supplies and other goods, vehicles and spare parts intended by these troops.The Council last month authorized an African-led and French-backed peacekeeping force to quell the spiralling violence known by its French acronym MISCA.Among positive steps taken by the mission in recent weeks has been aiding UN agencies secure humanitarian access.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) today said that its first convoy of food supplies reached the capital as a result of good cooperation between “MISCA, Cameroon and CAR officials,” according to WFP Regional Director for West Africa, Denise Brown.Ten trucks carrying WFP food – 250 metric tons of rice and maize meal – arrived in Bangui on Monday, after a 600-kilometre journey from the Cameroon border. The trucks were part of a 60-vehicle convoy escorted by MISCA troops. Another 41 commercial trucks carrying WFP cereals are still stranded at the Cameroonian border, along with hundreds of other vehicles, the UN agency said.Today’s Security Council resolution also allows for an initial one-year travel embargo and a freeze of financial assets as targeting measures, but does not specify names or group affiliations to be sanctioned.The Council, which had considered imposing targeted measures, including travel bans and assets freezes, in December, today decided that all Member States “shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories” of the individuals.It also decided that States “freeze, without delay all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly” by the individuals or entities.In December 2013, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution imposing several measures including a year-long embargo on the supply of arms, military equipment and related assistance to non-state actors in the CAR.
In a statement to the press after its discussions, the 15-member Council expressed concern at the continuing delays in the legislative and presidential elections, which have recently been postponed to 13 April from 16 March, according to a decree signed by interim President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo.“Such delays have a negative impact on the country’s social and economic well-being, and on the already fragile security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Guinea-Bissau,” the Council said.Members also urged authorities in charge of the transitional period to create a conducive environment for the “safe, full and equal” participation of all actors, including women.In today’s statement, the Council condemned violence in Guinea-Bissau, which has “contributed to atmosphere of fear and intimidation among the population.” and reiterated its concern about the prevailing culture of impunity and lack of accountability in the country. They also called on all stakeholders, including political parties, defense and security forces, and civil society organizations and traditional leaders “to refrain from any action that could hamper the electoral process, to facilitate the conduct of peaceful and credible elections, and to respect the election results as an expression of the will of the people.”Specifically, the Council called on the military to respect the constitutional order, including the electoral process, and “to submit themselves fully to civilian control.”Constitutional order has still not been restored in Guinea-Bissau, which is recovering from an April 2012 coup in which soldiers loyal to General Antonio Injai, toppled the Government ahead of the days before a runoff election that was expected to go to then Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.During the Security Council meeting earlier in the day, Jose Ramos-Horta, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau, urged the defense and security forces from interfering in the forthcoming elections and to protect the candidates. In a videoconference, Mr. Ramos-Horta, who is also head of the UN political mission in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), called for intensive international support for the country after the elections.Also briefing the Council, Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil, the Chairperson of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, noted that the impact of the political instability on the country’s economy is “devastating”. He noted that there was “a widespread sense of weariness in the country” and that “people wanted to move on.”He echoed Mr. Ramos-Horta’s call for international support after the polls close, and also detailed a three-prong approach that includes modernizing the security sector.In his briefing, the Ambassador also warned that international crime and drug trafficking remain major concerns, with the emerging threat caused by irregular fishing and logging licenses.