Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 20, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, SRSG Rugwabiza for your leadership and briefing today. The United States appreciates you, your team, and the troop- and police-contributing countries’ commitment to peace in the Central African Republic. I also wish to thank Ms. Bahous, Ambassador Adeoye, and Mr. Ngatondang for their informative and comprehensive briefings. I also welcome Her Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the CAR to this meeting of the Security Council.
Mr. President, the United States is gravely concerned by reports earlier this month alleging that Tanzanian peacekeepers committed sexual exploitation and abuse. We commend the Secretariat for its swift decision following a preliminary investigation to repatriate the unit in support of the Secretary-General’s policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, and in line with Security Council Resolution 2272. Such behavior is unacceptable, antithetical to the spirit of peacekeeping, and undermines MINUSCA’s positive contributions to CAR. We call for accountability and the full implementation of Resolution 2272 when addressing these acts.
Separately, we commend the mission’s progress in conducting joint and coordinated patrols with Central African security forces, which have deterred armed group attacks against civilians by proactively addressing sources of instability.
MINUSCA has also played a key role in supporting the government’s preparations for upcoming local elections, including by encouraging political dialogue and providing logistical, security, and technical support. The mission’s mandate is clear in scope: it is only authorized to support CAR’s 2023 Republican Dialogue and local elections, and no other political processes.
The United States is concerned by the CAR government’s announcement that it is proceeding with efforts to amend the country’s constitution to end or extend term limits. It is disappointing that historic local elections, which are important for decentralization and increasing political representation, have been deprioritized and delayed in favor of a constitutional referendum that risks destabilizing the country.
Let me be clear: CAR has the right to amend its constitution. But we urge the government to ensure the inclusion of diverse political and civil society actors in any potential revisions of the country’s foundational document. A transparent, free, and fair referendum process that reflects the will of the Central African people is critical to lasting peace and security.
Turning to the CAR sanctions regime, which this Council will soon negotiate, I would like to underscore the important role that the notification process plays in ensuring transparency.
The arms embargo does not prevent the CAR government from securing the weapons it needs to confront armed groups. In fact, as the 2127 Committee Chair explained during his visit to the Central African Republic earlier this month, the CAR government is able to obtain all types of weapons and aircraft for the training of its armed forces. What the embargo seeks to prevent is the transfer of weapons to armed groups, which is something that has clear implications for the security of the Central African Republic. We look forward to engaging constructively with fellow Council Members and the CAR government throughout negotiations on the sanctions regime’s renewal.
Finally, as we have seen over the course of the past dry season, there is no military-only solution to the CAR’s crisis. The only durable solution is through political dialogue, including full and inclusive implementation of the 2019 peace agreement and regionally brokered 2021 road map. Unfortunately, some predatory entities in CAR continue to destabilize the country, threaten the peace process, and undermine CAR’s sovereignty in order to further exploit Central African wealth for their own gain.
Reporting by the CAR Panel of Experts clearly indicates that Wagner Group forces, referred to as “Russian instructors,” are not only engaged in indiscriminate and brutal combat operations, but are expanding their control of CAR’s natural resources, forcing out legitimate businesses in the process. For example, the Panel’s April report notes that these so-called “Russian instructors” have occupied the premises of a Central African diamond-buying company in Bria for over a year without the company’s consent.
We also remain gravely concerned by Wagner and government forces preventing MINUSCA’s unfettered freedom of movement to protect civilians and investigate human rights violations. Reporting over the past year by the Independent Expert on CAR, Yao Agbetse, further underscores the brutal human rights abuses that Wagner forces are inflicting on Central African civilians and government officials, including killings, sexual violence, and other physical abuse. Without accountability for these heinous acts, CAR will not be able to achieve the peace that is necessary to unlock the country’s vast potential.
The United States remains committed to the Central African people, and to ensuring justice for the crimes committed against them. We again call upon all actors to lay down their weapons and choose the path of dialogue in order to achieve a long-delayed sustainable peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.