NEW YORK, January 8, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members Also Hear from Country’s
Permanent Representative, Delegations of Chad, African Union
The situation in the Central African Republic had “greatly deteriorated” following a spate of attacks on 5 December that had triggered further unrest in the strife-torn country, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, urging those in positions of influence — including the 15-member organ — to do more towards ending the violence.
“There is a very real risk that the crisis could spread beyond the country’s borders and further destabilize the region,” warned Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as he briefed the Council on recent developments. Urging members to remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law, he emphasized: “The violence and atrocities in the Central African Republic must stop.”
According to the latest information, he said, some 2.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, close to half the country’s population. One in every two inhabitants of the capital Bangui — an estimated 513,000 people — had sought refuge outside their homes, and 100,000 of them were in a makeshift camp at the airport. Killings continued daily and people remained divided along religious lines, with access to Bangui neighbourhoods controlled either by “anti-Christian” or “anti-Muslim” checkpoints manned by armed civilians. Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal had repatriated tens of thousands of their citizens, the vast majority of whom were Muslim.
“This is the first time in the history of the [ Central African Republic] that people, on account of their religion, have felt obliged to leave the country for fear of their lives,” Mr. Feltman said. The rapid deployment, by the African Union and France respectively, of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and the Sangaris operation had changed the security dynamics in Bangui. As MISCA continued to build up to its authorized strength of 6,000 personnel, its presence would be increased outside the capital, he said, adding that his Office was working with the African Union to organize a donors’ conference on 1 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He said the events of 5 December had dealt a “serious” blow to the Transitional Authorities, whose inability to curb widespread human rights abuses perpetrated against Christians by former Séléka rebels had contributed to the transformation of local “anti-Balaka” self-defence groups into a full-blown rebellion. Due to its predominantly Muslim composition, Séléka’s abuses against Christians had been quickly interpreted as a religious conflict pitting Muslims against Christians. On the other hand, the frustration of Muslim communities stemmed from years of marginalization by successive Governments since independence more than 50 years ago.
Pointing to a way forward, he said Heads of State of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had proposed an inclusive conference where national actors would be able to share their frustrations, identify challenges and agree on a way forward, especially on the conduct of elections and determining priorities for the post-transition period. While welcoming the adoption of a new electoral code and the swearing in of the seven-member National Electoral Authority, he cautioned nevertheless that conditions for holding elections remained elusive amid the systematic looting of local administrations and the destruction of civil national registries by ex-Séléka fighters.
Among the top priorities should be the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all armed groups, he stressed, calling for the funding and allocation of such an effort to be carried out in line with internationally accepted standards. The humanitarian situation had deteriorated at an alarming rate, with nearly half the population in need of assistance. Violence had forced one fifth of the population to flee their homes, a figure that had more than doubled since 5 December. More than 935,000 people were sleeping outside or in temporary spaces, and half the population in Bangui had sought refuge at one of the 55 sites for internally displaced persons.
Mr. Feltman recalled that the United Nations had activated a system-wide Level 3 Emergency Response on 11 December, allowing it to send its most experienced staff, release emergency funds and mobilize relief supplies. A senior humanitarian coordinator had been deployed, while the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator had allocated $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Yet, “needs continue to outpace the response”, he noted, underlining that without additional contributions, the World Food Programme (WFP) pipeline would be 90 per cent depleted in February.
He said the United Nations would do its best to prevent human rights abuses from reaching “unthinkable” levels, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and the country’s return to constitutional order. At Headquarters, the Deputy Secretary-General regularly chaired a Senior Action Group to consider how best to respond to the multifaceted crisis, marking the first case for the Secretary-General’s new “Rights Upfront” agenda, he noted. “It is our collective responsibility to act now, before it’s too late.”
Following that briefing, Tété Antonio, Permanent Observer of the African Union, recalled that MISCA, under the African peace and security architecture, had taken over responsibility from the ECCAS-led peace operation MICOPAX (Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic) on 19 December. Its initial plans had been stymied by the 5 December attacks of the anti-Balaka movement. On 13 December, the African Union Peace and Security Council had decided to increase the number of MISCA troops to 6,000 uniformed personnel.
For its part, the Mission had taken measures to address the rise in lynchings, summary executions and pillaging, he continued. Since the attacks, it had adopted new plans to divide duties between MISCA and the Sangaris operation in order to better cover the national territory. The imminent deployment of a Rwandan contingent and the provision of communications equipment should allow MISCA to speed the stabilization of Bangui and launch the second phase of its deployment, in line with the concept of operations.
On the political level, he said, the Transitional Authorities must be encouraged to work together, move up the transition schedule and, especially, take steps to resume State services, including the transparent management of public finances. On 4 January, the head of MISCA had met with the Mayor of Bangui, humanitarian agencies and others to agree on measures for meeting security needs. There were many challenges ahead, including a lack of infrastructure, aerial and ground transport, as well as communications resources. Financial and logistical support were also needed
Leonie Banga-Bothy, the Central African Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Integration, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad, officially apologized to States whose nationals had been attacked and killed, deploring the loss of French, Congolese and Chadian peacekeepers. She recalled that the transitional Prime Minister had “sounded the warning bell” during his 22 September speech to the General Assembly over the possibility of great chaos in the country. Just as the Council had been preparing to adopt resolution 2127 (2013), which had given the nation new hope, enemies of the Central African Republic had chosen to attack Bangui, causing several deaths. The ensuing resumption of violence by armed groups, and the worsening humanitarian situation in the capital, had forced 300,000 people to seek refuge in camps. Women and children had been exposed to all forms of violence, disease and famine, while the risk of cholera and other infectious diseases was spreading.
She went on to say that the Head of State had “extended a hand” to anti-Balaka groups, but rather than accept that offer of dialogue, they had continued their savage attacks against ex-Séléka and MISCA forces, sowing terror and preventing refugees from returning home. She praised the reconciliation efforts of Christians and Muslims, pointing out, however, that they would require time, patience and determination. The forthcoming elections must be fair, transparent and not hastily organized. Moreover, the focus of international aid efforts must be expanded to reach people in the hinterlands, she said. Calling for increased financial and logistic resources on the ground, she commended the African Union for reinforcing MISCA, expressing hope that they would be able to cover the entire country.
Cherif Mahamat Zene (Chad) said he was extremely worried about the continuing violence against civilians, particularly foreigners, adding that his country’s Government was working to repatriate its citizens by land and sea. Hatred of foreigners due to their religion was not justified and must be condemned. Chad would not be deterred by the media campaigns of small, power-seeking groups. Adequate security and stability were vital for Central African economic integration. During the power struggle in which religion was exploited for political gain, Central African leaders must work to end the violence and advance the political process, he emphasized. MISCA must continue to disarm ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka militias and to stabilize the country so that free, transparent elections could be held, in line with the N’Djamena road map. He called upon the United Nations, the European Union and the Central African Republic’s bilateral partners to support the efforts by the African Union, ECCAS and France to ensure that civilians were protected, and that justice and national reconciliation prevailed.
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