Briefing Security Council, Senior United Nations officials urge action in volatile Central African Republic, support for new African-led operation
7017th Meeting (AM)
The international community must mobilize to overcome the “highly volatile” security situation and degenerating humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic, including by supporting the newly deployed African Union mission, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
“It is time to act,” urged Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). He welcomed the new African-led support operation, known as AFISM-CAR, and implored stakeholders to continue their “constant and active” support of the country’s transition process.
Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on the matter (document S/2013/470 and briefing the Council on BINUCA’s activities, he went on to say that, since the report’s publication earlier this month, the situation in the Central African Republic had remained unpredictable, human rights abuses were widespread and the country’s humanitarian emergency continued to worsen.
The crisis persisted despite some notable political progress, he said. Following the promulgation of the country’s Transitional Charter on 18 July, Michel Djotodia was slated to be sworn in as Head of State of the Transition in a few days, on 18 August. The ceremony would officially launch the country’s transition, which should take between 18 and 24 months, he added.
While there was still a total absence of the rule of law nationwide, the security situation had improved slightly in Bangui, following the arrest of a former prominent military leader of one of Séléka’s factions, General Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane. Joint patrols by Séléka and MICROPAX — the subregional peacekeeping force — had resumed in the capital.
However, looting, plundering, killing, torture and kidnappings continued, compounded by the breakdown of law and order. “We must ensure that there is no impunity for perpetrators of gross human rights violations,” he said. In addition, the humanitarian crisis had reached unprecedented levels, with 4.6 million people affected. The Lord’s Resistance Army continued to thrive in the turmoil.
On 19 July, the African Union Peace and Security Council had authorized the deployment of AFISM-CAR for an initial period of six months, effective 1 August. The new mission would have a total strength of 3,652 civilian and military personnel, he said, and would be mandated, among other things, to protect civilians and restore public order and State authority, as well as to reform and restructure the defence and security sector.
On the political front, he said, Prime Minister Michel Djotodia and the President of the National Transitional Council must work together to address their differences, which threatened to exacerbate the situation. There was a need to tackle the question of impunity and to ensure proper assistance to people in need.
Also briefing the Council was Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, fresh from her visit to the country. She said that the humanitarian situation had deteriorated dramatically, shifting from a long-term crisis of poverty and chronic vulnerability to “a complex emergency”, characterized by violence, acute needs and grave protection issues. If not adequately addressed, she warned, the crisis could spread beyond the national border and further destabilize a region already facing significant challenges.
All 4.6 million Central Africans had been affected by the crisis and 1.6 million people were in dire need of assistance, including food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter, she said. More than 206,000 people had been internally displaced and nearly 60,000 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Many people continued to hide in the bush and remote areas in poor sanitary conditions and without access to basic services or clean water.
Stressing the need for a comprehensive response which prioritized the restoration of security and addressed humanitarian, recovery and development needs, she made a number of requests of the Council, including that it act with urgency on the African Union’s request for support for its newly established peacekeeping mission. She also called for an increase in funding, noting that only 32 per cent of the $195 million pledged by the United States had been raised to date. “The Central African Republic is not yet a failed State, but it has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken,” she concluded.
Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, also highlighting findings from his recent mission to the Central African Republic, agreed that, while the country’s problems were not new, the recent conflict was marked by unprecedented levels of violence, looting and destruction.
He said that both Séléka and former Government forces had committed serious international human rights and humanitarian law violations, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions, enforced disappeared, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence and grave violations against children, with many of those breaches ongoing. “Fear is pervasive everywhere,” he added.
He issued six key recommendations to the Council and the international community, including that a credible and legitimate national security force be established on an urgent basis, composed of a number of both former regime security and Séléka forces. He also recommended the deployment of a large international force with a strong protection mandate, and the reinforcement of the human rights component of BINUCA.
While major donors had suspended development aid since rebels seized power in March, he recommended that they now invest in humanitarian aid and community protection programmes. Human rights violations must be investigated through independent national or international mechanisms. There must be a national consensus on inclusive future Governments, even development across regions, and the elimination of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion or politics.
Taking the floor following those briefings, Charles-Armel Doubane ( Central African Republic) underscored that his people were subjected to killings, and inhumane and degrading treatment every day. Yesterday had marked 53 years since the country had gained its independence. Unfortunately, it also marked 53 years of erosion of the State. Its people were being taken hostage and the imposition of foreign customs was tearing at the fabric of social cohesion.
“Let us remain vigilant until the chaotic satiation is resolved and justice is restored to all victims,” he urged. While he was pleased with the various meetings taking place on the fate of the country, the Central African people continued to live in distress and feared emerging from the bush to return to their villages. They “await your help”, he told the Council, adding that they hoped to soon take their destiny in hand and live in stability and peace.
Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s report that the State had totally collapsed in his country, he added that the seriousness of the situation required greater mobilization and commitment by the international community as a whole.
In particular, he said, his people expected a quick deployment of the new mission, whose mandate should include rebuilding nationally led security forces. BINUCA also required a bolstered mandate with adequate staffing and funding. Finally, he stressed, the Security Council should appoint a penholder for the Central African Republic, as the crisis could not go on being a forgotten one.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.
For information media • not an official record