“The international community remains mobilized for the holding of the elections in December”

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Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, in Khartoum, January 24, 2019.

While presidential and legislative elections are due to be held on December 27 in the Central African Republic, the country’s situation is closely monitored by the international community. Thursday 1er October, a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly brought together by videoconference Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, candidate for re-election, and several ministers from various countries, including the United States, Russia, France or South Africa.

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Despite the political and security unrest that continues to plague the country, the participants reiterated their determination to ensure that the polls were held well. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in an interview with World Africa the determination of the organization not to let the “Attempts at destabilization” like those carried out by the armed group 3R (Return, Claim, Rehabilitation) in the north-west of the country.

This meeting on the Central African Republic is presented as one of the five flagship events organized by the UN on the sidelines of the General Assembly. What is the message ?

The international community wishes to show that, despite everything, it remains mobilized in the Central African Republic, to ensure that the elections are held, in the best possible conditions, on time, with a first round set for December 27. The last thing the country needs is institutional instability.

Could one fear that the elections could not take place normally in the west of the country, where the armed group 3R regularly causes tensions?

It cannot be ruled out that as the elections approach, there will be attempts here and there to destabilize the 3R group. But we will be vigilant and very determined. Their attempts to obstruct are unacceptable. The Security Council sent a strong message in August, imposing sanctions on the leader of the 3R, Sidiki Abbas (real name Bi Sidi Souleman).

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The group was also weakened by the operations carried out jointly by the soldiers of the UN force of Minusca and by the soldiers, police and gendarmes of the Central African Republic. This will help facilitate the organization of elections in more localities.

How do the 11,000 Minusca peacekeepers manage to reconcile their mission of securing elections with their role in helping to prevent the pandemic?

La Minusca had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. Patrols and contact with communities have changed, but support for voter registration continued. And as President Touadéra said, ten days before registration closes, 1.7 million voters have already been registered, despite all these difficulties.

Has the DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) process been delayed by the pandemic?

DDR operations have not been called into question by the Covid-19. They are a very important condition for the return of stability in the country: it is a question of reintegrating groups in time, of returning them to civilian life. Some may eventually be recruited into the Uniformed Forces. We carried out DDR operations in Kaga-Bandoro and Bria in particular, where 80 combatants were disarmed. More than 500 weapons – rocket launchers, grenades – were collected.

Is the international community satisfied with the advances since the peace agreement of February 6, 2019 and the reforms presented by President Touadéra?

The fact that this inclusive government continues to operate is a good sign. One of the fundamental objectives was the return of the presence of the State on the territory and it is so far on the right track, both for civilian reinforcement and for the reinforcement of uniformed forces. The number of Central African police and gendarmes is increasing, as is the number of special mixed security units (USMS), as training conducted by the European Union or the UN takes place. .

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The USMS, which includes both CAR soldiers and ex-members of armed groups, are very beneficial. Beyond operational efficiency, they have symbolic value by showing that divisions are not fatal or insurmountable, that reconciliation and working together can exist.

We are focusing on the goal of the elections, but we know that once the ballot is over, there will still be a lot to do in the further implementation of the peace agreement.

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