Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 22, 2022
Thank you, SRSG Rugwabiza, for an informative briefing. My delegation wants to start by congratulating you on a productive beginning to your tenure at the helm of MINUSCA and commend you for the leadership you’re demonstrating. Thank you. I particularly want to thank, as well, Ms. Lina Ekomo for her very compelling, very brave briefing to us today. It’s important that we get ground truth from activists like you, and thank you for appearing today.
In light of the briefings we’ve just heard, my remarks today will address three themes: first, the contributions of MINUSCA toward peace and security in the Central African Republic; second, the need for continuing steps towards a political solution to the country’s conflict; and lastly, the continued human rights abuses and threat to regional stability from Kremlin-backed Wagner Group forces.
First, thanks to the daily work of peacekeepers and the commitment of their contributing countries, MINUSCA has continued to make critical contributions to protecting civilians and supporting implementation of the 2019 peace agreement. As the Secretary-General’s report notes, MINUSCA’s increasingly robust posture, coupled with joint operations with Central African security forces, has successfully ousted several armed groups and safeguarded towns.
My delegation also wants to likewise applaud SRSG Rugwabiza’s initiative in addressing the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse through enhanced training and accountability mechanisms. We remain concerned, however, that Central African armed forces, in many cases in our assessment likely directed by the Wagner Group, perpetrated 23 violations of MINUSCA’s status-of-forces agreement over the last four months. We further condemn, as others have, disinformation campaigns targeting MINUSCA, which impedes mandate implementation and puts peacekeepers’ lives in danger.
The second point I’d like to make is that there is no military-only solution to CAR’s crisis. The only way forward is through full implementation of the 2019 peace agreement and sustained state authority across the country that is responsive to the needs of Central Africans, as well as justice for victims. To that end, I echo Ms. Lina’s call for the CAR government’s initiative to advance the peace process and commend the leadership of Rwanda and Angola in supporting it through the regional roadmap. Recent progress on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and repatriation, such as the demobilization of more than 700 former LRA members, are encouraging steps. All actors in country must respect formal disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and repatriation processes, which are as fundamental to the success of the 2019 peace agreement as its other core tenets, to include honoring President Touadera’s ceasefire and strengthening relations between CAR and its neighbors.
Madam President, my third and final point is on upholding accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses. Like others, we celebrate the progress of the Special Criminal Court, which recently opened its first trial. This is an important milestone in ensuring truth and accountability for those afflicted by conflict. Unfortunately, one of the worst offenders of human rights abuses is the Wagner Group, whose forces, which are referred to as “other security personnel” in the Secretary-General’s report, perpetrated 42 incidents of human rights abuses during the reporting period, affecting 165 victims, often in the presence of national defense forces. Independent investigations corroborate this account, including a recent Human Rights Watch report that confirmed the Wagner Group has “summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians” across the country since 2019.
We call on the Russian government and the Central African Republic government, through its Special Commission of Inquiry, to investigate all allegations transparently and hold accountable those responsible for these heinous acts. We are deeply concerned by reports that Wagner forces have detained and killed peacebuilders and former combatants who willingly participated in DDR processes. Wagner’s assassination of Zakaria Demane in February shocked many Central Africans. As the Secretary-General’s report highlights, Wagner forces have rearmed ex-combatants, creating their own unaccountable proxy militias, and have interfered with MINUSCA’s operations, hindering the peacekeepers’ ability to implement mandated tasks. The illicit extraction of CAR’s mineral wealth remains a key driver of Wagner’s activities, in addition to those of non-state armed groups and other actors. Promoting responsible natural resource management and combating the related corruption are critical for peace and prosperity in the country.
In conclusion, we once again call on all actors in CAR to lay down their weapons. The people of CAR deserve a political solution that will end their suffering. Thank you, Madam President.