UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for credible elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) within the constitutional time limits.

The coming period will be decisive for the CAR. The presidential, legislative, and local elections represent a unique opportunity for national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace as well as the country’s constitutional order and democratic achievements, Guterres told a high-level meeting on the CAR.

He said, the elections also constitute a crucial step for the continuity of the political process.

The CAR authorities and all national stakeholders have a historic responsibility to ensure the proper conduct of these elections, which must be free, transparent, safe, inclusive and within the constitutional time limits, he said.

I call upon all stakeholders to prioritize national dialogue and consensus-building, in a spirit of respect and tolerance between different ethnic groups and religions.

All segments of the population of the CAR, in particular women, young people, internally displaced persons, and refugees must be at the center of efforts to consolidate democracy and, consequently, of this electoral process, he said.

It is vital for the international community to remain mobilized to support the peace process in a coordinated manner, said Guterres.

He said the support of the partners of the CAR remains indispensable for the holding of the elections within the constitutional time limits, as well as for the full and comprehensive implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement.

Guterres voiced concern about the significant number of human rights violations and breaches of the Political Agreement.

The commitments made by all signatories must be respected. Particularly, I wish to strongly condemn all attacks targeting civilians, humanitarian workers, and peacekeepers.

These attacks, which may constitute war crimes, must stop immediately, and I call upon the authorities to redouble their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, protect civilians and strengthen measures to address violence against women.”

Let there be no mistake: a lasting peace will not be possible without compliance with the Political Agreement and without real progress on the development front, he said.

The humanitarian and sustainable development needs of the country remain an urgent priority. These needs have increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and have not allowed for progress to be made with regard to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the 2063 Agenda of the African Union.

The peace dividends must benefit all the people of the CAR, in particular the most vulnerable and the historically marginalized, he said.

In that connection, the United Nations’ partnership with the international financial institutions is crucial, he said, commending the commitment of the World Bank in the CAR.

The progress made on the development front will help to reduce humanitarian needs. He said, unfortunately in previous years the humanitarian community has received less than half of the funds required to meet the needs of the 2.6 million people of the CAR who are in a precarious situation.

I appeal to donors to significantly strengthen their economic and humanitarian cooperation with the Central African Republic.

Guterres saw significant progress in the implementation of the Political Agreement, including progress in terms of legislative reforms, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, and the extension of state authority across the country.

Despite the pandemic, the mechanisms for implementing the Political Agreement have allowed for constructive dialogue between the government, the armed groups, the political parties, and representatives of civil society, he said.

The security situation has also improved in some areas of the country, thanks to the ongoing political commitment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, complemented by a robust and dynamic posture in support of the efforts of the authorities of the CAR, he said.

The United Nations will continue to support the people of the CAR through the UN country team and MINUSCA, he said.

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