Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 26, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, SRSG Rugwabiza, for your comprehensive briefing. I also welcome the Foreign Minister of the Central African Republic to this meeting. Madam SRSG, your report clearly demonstrates the essential role that MINUSCA serves in protecting civilians and providing stability for the Central African Republic.
Mr. President, today I will address three key themes: MINUSCA’s contributions to peace and security, the need for free and fair local elections, and the importance of a political solution to ending the country’s conflict.
First, I convey my deep appreciation to MINUSCA, its leadership, and troop- and police-contributing countries for their sacrifices and commitment to promoting peace in the Central African Republic. We mourn the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by Moroccan peacekeepers on October 2, and by a Tanzanian peacekeeper on October 8, following automobile accidents. These unfortunate events highlight some of the challenges that MINUSCA’s peacekeepers face as they seek to adopt the necessary posture to provide robust protection of civilians. We reiterate the importance of properly equipping the mission to maneuver in this environment and fully implement its mandate.
Despite the difficult operating environment, MINUSCA has made contributions to peace and security over the past year, in partnership with the Central African Republic government and civil society. We commend the enhanced cooperation between the mission and Central African Armed Forces and efforts to support a more proactive force through the closure of 14 temporary operating bases. Joint operations and enhanced mobility of mission personnel are an important means to empower the country’s security forces to provide for the Central African people and support a durable and responsible restoration of state authority. We also appreciate MINUSCA’s work to mitigate the threat of explosive ordnance through risk reduction sessions for over 5,000 civilians and capacity-building for national forces, as well as the Central African Republic government’s decision to create a national authority to address this threat.
This leads me to my second point: CAR’s partners, including MINUSCA, have a critical role to play in supporting local elections, scheduled for October 2024. It has been far too long since Central Africans have been able to elect local leaders. These elections are a critical component of decentralization. They should be conducted in a transparent, timely, and inclusive manner. To this end, we stress the importance of the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and youth at all levels in political dialogue, and throughout the elections process.
Finally, combatting armed groups that refuse to engage in the peace process is important, but military-only solutions will not stop the cycle of violence. We echo the Secretary-General’s call on the government of the Central African Republic to resume dialogue with the political opposition and armed groups within the framework of the peace process, and for the opposition to engage constructively.
Not all of the Central African Republic’s partners are invested in promoting a lasting peace, however. It is well documented that Kremlin-backed Wagner Group forces are engaging in illicit extraction of the CAR’s mineral wealth, without contributing to the country’s development. The Wagner Group’s operations, at times conducted alongside Central African forces outside of the government’s formal chain of command, effectively drive armed groups away from the peace process; undermine DDR efforts through parallel but inconsistent processes; and threaten local and regional efforts to stabilize the country.
We call upon all actors to choose the path of peace. The Central African people deserve a political solution that will unlock the country’s potential. The United States remains a steadfast partner of the Central African people, and we look forward to further supporting MINUSCA’s work in next month’s mandate renewal.
Thank you, Mr. President.