Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
February 21, 2023
Thank you, President. Thank you, SRSG Rugwabiza, for your leadership and informative briefing, which illustrates the critical role that MINUSCA plays in supporting peace and security in the Central African Republic. I welcome the presence of the Foreign Minister of the Central African Republic and the Chairperson of the Central African Republic Country-Specific Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Today I would like to address three core themes: MINUSCA’s positive contributions to peace and security in CAR, the importance of respecting the Mission’s Status of Forces Agreement, and the need for a political solution to end the country’s conflict.
First, I convey my appreciation to the staff and peacekeepers of MINUSCA, the mission’s leadership, and the troop- and police-contributing countries for their commitment to peace in the Central African Republic.
As the Secretary-General’s report describes, MINUSCA’s proactive and robust posture protects civilians, limits the movements of armed groups, and supports the return of social services, humanitarian actors, and development partners. We commend the mission’s work and join with the CAR government in encouraging MINUSCA to further deter armed group attacks against civilians by proactively addressing sources of instability. This is particularly timely given the uptick in armed group attacks since the onset of the dry season.
The United States is proud to be a firm supporter of MINUSCA and a partner to many of the mission’s TCCs and PCCs. Through our Global Peace Operations Initiative, we provided training and support to the Peruvian engineering unit that rehabilitated a road linking Bossangoa and Bossembele. We have also provided support to Zambia as it prepares its infantry battalion for deployment, a unit recognized for its performance, particularly in helping protect civilians and expel armed groups from Ouanda-Djallé last summer.
To effectively fulfill its mandate and ensure the safety and security of UN personnel, it is critical MINUSCA be permitted full freedom of movement. We welcome the late 2022 agreement between the CAR government and MINUSCA re-authorizing unrestricted UN night flights; however, the new restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles directly hinder MINUSCA’s ability to fulfill its mandate. Lifting one restriction and replacing it with another is not progress.
This leads me to my second point: The need for the Central African Armed Forces to demonstrate greater respect for the mission’s SOFA. We were disheartened to see an increase in SOFA violations over the reporting period, despite the mission’s efforts to cooperate with the FACA.
Obstructing mission patrols and detaining convoys impede MINUSCA’s ability to protect civilians from armed groups, identify and clear explosive ordinance, and support CAR’s stabilization.
We share the CAR government’s concern with reported increases in armed group activity, including cross-border violence. The heinous late-January attack on the Beloko customs facility represents a stark escalation by armed groups, and we encourage all regional actors to play a constructive role in helping to stabilize CAR. Sustainably addressing this challenge requires coordination among border patrol forces, positive engagement by regional actors, and a recommitment to the peace process.
Which leads me to my final point: There remains no military-only solution to CAR’s crisis. The only durable solution is through political dialogue, full implementation of the 2019 peace agreement and regionally-brokered 2021 road map, the reassertion of state authority, and justice for victims. The full, equal, and meaningful participation and leadership of women, the diverse and effective engagement of youth, and participation of members of ethnic and religious minorities in political dialogue are critical to making CAR’s peace process more effective, inclusive, and sustainable.
Unfortunately, some predatory entities in CAR seek to destabilize the country in order to further exploit its wealth for their own gain. The Wagner Group perpetrates numerous human rights abuses as part of its campaign to control CAR’s sovereign natural resources. We are disappointed the Secretariat continues to self-censor by using euphemisms to refer to Wagner when it is clear that Wagner forces are responsible for many of these abuses. Wagner came to CAR promising to reduce armed group violence, but on the contrary, its actions are fueling further insecurity and conflict. Without accountability for human rights abuses, CAR will not be able to achieve the peace that is necessary to unlock the country’s vast potential.
We once again call upon all actors to lay down their weapons and choose the path of dialogue. The Central African people deserve peace.
Thank you, President.