on the Central African Republic
New York, 1 October 2020
In a few months, citizens of the Central African Republic will return to the polls for the legislative and presidential elections. Five years have passed since His Excellency, Professor Faustin-Archange Touadéra was chosen to lead the fragile country from a period of transition along the path of democracy and integral human development. As we look back to 2015-2016, we do so with gratitude for the peaceful way in which those elections took place. The population came together as one to turn the page, and begin to write, together, a new chapter in the country’s history. The Holy See hopes that this year’s elections will be equally peaceful and build on the progress already made.
As democratic institutions made a gradual return, facilitated for a brief time by peace and concord, there were still, sadly, tensions. Violent clashes, people displaced in massive numbers, and humanitarian needs remained high. It was clear that the various actors in the CAR would have to come together, with the support of the international community, especially MINUSCA in partnership with the African Union, the European Union and other key-players, to forge a way forward to consolidate peace and reconciliation. After various attempts, this eventually took the form of a Political Agreement [Accord Politique pour la Paix et la Réconciliation en République Centrafricaine] signed in Bangui in February 2019 and hailed as the sole way towards lasting peace and stability.
Today’s Meeting affords us, as friends of the Central African Republic, another opportunity to encourage further dialogue in the spirit of the Agreement and above all to encourage greater adherence to the commitments that have been made while analyzing what still needs to be done for its implementation. This examination should consider both the pre- and post-election period as well how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting CAR society at all levels.
There have been several positive steps, including the deployment of the Central African Armed Forces [FACA], in view of having a well-trained republican army to secure the vast territory and maintain order, especially during the ongoing and much-needed decentralization process. Nevertheless, there remains the problem of those who on paper choose political engagement while in practice terrorize the population in ways unworthy of a solemn commitment towards transparency and democracy. Such actions prevent much-needed development and foment further discord and division. When this takes place and actions do not match words, those who pay the heaviest price are the poorest and most vulnerable members of the population. Girls and boys are deprived of developing their skills through education and learning and sometimes are unlawfully forced into armed groups where they are victims of grave violations. Men and women, moreover, are prevented from cultivating their fields to provide nourishment and stability for their families as well as for the wider community, being forced instead to live in fear due to wide-scale human rights abuses. So many still lack the most basic necessities to live with the dignity worthy of the human person. Assistance provided by humanitarian organizations is sometimes prevented from reaching the needy because of the disregard for the rule of law on the part of members of armed groups.
Since 2016, at the personal wish of Pope Francis, the Holy See, in close partnership with the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, has made an important contribution to the health and well-being of the children of the CAR by improving the quality of service and care provided at the Complexe Pédiatrique de Bangui. The support began with careful planning and the financing of extensive construction. It continues with the formation of pediatric medical professionals and extensive training to Central African physicians. Meanwhile, day after day, religious sisters, priests and other dedicated actors are devoting themselves to helping people, even in the remotest villages and communities, to become agents of their own development.
This is an important moment in the history of the Central African Republic. The time has come ‘to silence the guns’ and help all those who make unjust use of weapons to lay down the instruments of death! The support and financing of groups who are not committed to the unity and good of the country and the illicit flow of arms must stop. It is also the time for Central Africans, from every walk of life, irrespective of their ethnic origin, religious affiliation or political persuasion to make real progress in terms of integral development.
Five years ago, Pope Francis, in his visit to Bangui, spoke of a “marvelous country, home to a people profoundly religious and blessed with so such natural and cultural richness; a country filled with God’s gifts!” And he appealed that “the Central African people, its leaders and its partners, [would] always appreciate the value of these gifts by working ceaselessly for unity, human dignity and a peace based on justice”.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Homily, Bangui Cathedral, Central African Republic
First Sunday of Advent, 29 November 2015.
 Pope Francis, Central African Republic, Meeting with the Authorities and Diplomatic Corps, Palais de la Renaissance, Bangui, Central African Republic 29 November 2015.