Central African Republic: IRIN News Briefs, 22 February

MINURCA mandate ends
The UN Mission in the CAR (MINURCA) did much to restore peace and security in the country, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week at the expiry of the UN peacekeeping mission's mandate on 15 February. MINURCA's success "once again demonstrates how much can be achieved by peacekeeping operations in Africa and elsewhere with the cooperation and political will of the parties, their commitment to peace and national reconciliation, a clear mandate, appropriate resources, and the strong and consistent support of the international community," Annan said in a statement. He said MINURCA, which was established in April 1998 following a series of army mutinies in 1996/97, had helped to create conditions conducive to the successful conduct of national elections, the restructuring of the security forces, the training of police and gendarmes and the launching of economic and social reforms. A UN Peace-Building Support Office (BONUCA) is taking over from MINURCA.

Opposition concern over post-MINURCA problems

Within the CAR, reaction to MINURCA's withdrawal has been mixed, news agencies reported. Gabriel Koyambounou of the ruling Mouvement pour la liberation du peuple centrafricain (MLPC) said his party was not worried about the force's departure. "Now, it is up to the government to handle the post-MINURCA era," he told Radio France Internationale. But an opposition leader, Abel Goumba, said it was regrettable that MINURCA had left before the full implementation of the 1997 Bangui peace accords. "Out of the over 300 recommendations resulting from the Bangui agreements, only 10 or 15 percent have been realised....The CAR is confronted with never-ending insecurity," he was quoted as saying.

Demobilisation efforts continue

Three decrees signed on 26 January by President Ange-Felix Patasse on the organisation and operation of the defence ministry, the CAR army and the national gendarmerie have provided "encouraging signs" for army restructuring and demobilisation initiatives in the country, a UN report said. "They confirm the importance accorded to these issues by the government," UNDP's Programme National de Demobilisation et Reconversion des Militaires (PNDR) said in its latest update, received by IRIN. One of the tasks assigned to the defence ministry was the restructuring of the army, the report noted. Meanwhile, the government, donors and other external partners were scheduled to discuss the PNDR at a meeting in New York in March with a view to raising the necessary funds for the country's army restructuring, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration efforts, the report stated. "The March results will be decisive," it said.

Increase in meningitis cases

An increase of meningococcal meningitis has been reported in the CAR, WHO said in a statement released on 16 February. It said a total of 86 cases and 14 deaths had been reported between October 1999 and January 2000 in Vakaga, Bamingui-Bangoran, Haute Katto and Ouham Pend. "Vaccination campaigns have been carried out in the affected areas, and the situation is being closely monitored by the WHO Regional Office for Africa," the statement said.


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