UN extends peacekeepers in Central African Republic

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to extend the U.N. peacekeeping force in Central African Republic for a year, with a mandate to protect civilians, support peace efforts, and assist in preparing for elections starting in 2020.

The French-drafted resolution welcomed the Feb. 6 peace agreement signed by the government and 14 armed groups and reiterated the council’s support for President Faustin-Archange Touadera and his government in their efforts to promote lasting peace.

It urged all signatories to implement the agreement without delay and condemned “in the strongest terms” violations and violence perpetrated by some armed groups and militias throughout the country. It demanded that armed groups cease all violence.

The resolution also condemned “incitement to ethnic and religious hatred and violence, violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses, including those committed against children and those involving sexual and gender-based violence in conflict.”

Central African Republic has seen deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital and mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

A period of relative peace followed in late 2015 and 2016, but violence spread and intensified after that. The peace agreement signed on Feb. 6 is the eighth since fighting began in 2013 and the first where armed groups, who control most of the impoverished country, held direct talks with the government.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere told the council after the vote: “This agreement represents indeed the only path toward lasting peace in Central African Republic, and while progress has already been made, significant challenges remain.”

The Security Council warned in the resolution that individuals or entities that undermine peace and stability in Central African Republic, also known by its initials CAR, can face sanctions.

It called on neighboring countries, regional organizations and international partners to support the peace process.

The council urged government authorities “to urgently implement a genuine and inclusive process to support reconciliation.” This should be done by addressing the root causes of the conflict, including the marginalization of civilians from specific communities, issues of national identity, economic development and local grievances, it said.

The resolution urged CAR authorities and all “national stakeholders” to prepare inclusive, free, fair and transparent presidential, legislative and local elections in 2020 and 2021.

The Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINUSA until Nov. 15, keeping its personnel at 11,650 military — including 480 military observers and staff officers — and 2,080 police personnel.

It said MINUSCA’s “strategic objective is to support the creation of the political, security and institutional conditions” to reduce the presence and threat of armed groups.

The council set out a number of priority tasks for MINUSCA — protecting civilians, supporting the peace process including by helping implement the peace agreement and assisting with elections, national reconciliation, “social cohesion and transitional justice,” and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid.

It also authorized other tasks for MINUSCA including supporting CAR authorities to extend their authority throughout the country, in reforming the security sector, promoting human rights, and in disarming and demobilizing armed groups and repatriating foreign fighters.

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