23 August 2013

Central African Republic: UN Secretary-General Pushes for International Commitment On Central African Republic

Photo: voice of America
Central African Republic's new President Michel Djotodia speaks to his supporters at a rally in favor of the Seleka rebel coalition in downtown Bangui Mar. 30, 2013.

On Monday, in a statement on World Humanitarian Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to give the security and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) "the highest priority."

A violent coup by the Séléka rebel group in March, political decentralization, and weapons proliferation have led to a dramatic deterioration of the nation's humanitarian situation during the past six months.

Citing the Council meeting on August 14, where members urged the global community to mobilize, the Secretary-General admitted he was "seriously concerned" about the situation.

With 1.6 million people in dire need of assistance, including food and health care, CAR is rapidly becoming a "failed state."

Following her recent visit to the nation in WHEN, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos expressed to the UNSC that humanitarian aid is not a long-term solution to the emergency, and that a "comprehensive response" is urgently needed.

"The situation is really unpredictable. Unfortunately, humanitarian assistance depends very much on the security situation in the country," explains Judith Melby, World Food Programme's West African Regional Public Information Officer, to MediaGlobal News.

"Lack of security is the key issue where you need international commitment, because without security we cannot work."

Melby, who was in CAR just one week ago, cites that approximately 484,000 civilians are food insecure.

There are humanitarian aid groups, such as WFP, on the ground, but as Melby tells MediaGlobal News, "It is very difficult to work in situations where security is unpredictable and it is difficult reach the population because they are not living in the villages or their homes."

According to General Babacar Gaye, Special Envoy to CAR and head of the nation's UN Integrated Peacekeeping Office (BINUCA), two primary causes of concern are lack of security and funding.

"We have to find the communities where they usually reside because many are in the bush," Gaye tells MediaGlobal News. "Additionally, if you look at the different mechanisms that are put in place for the humanitarian operation we are yet to obtain even 50 percent of the funding that is expected."

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilan Šimonović recently conducted a four-day visit to CAR and put forth six recommendations to the Council.

The recommendations included the reinforcement of the human rights component of BINUCA, deployment of a large international force with a strong mandate, and the establishment of a "legitimate national security force."

On July 19, the African Union introduced the African-Led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (AFISM-CAR) for the protection of civilians, restoration of security, and stabilization of the government.

According to Gaye, the AU released authorization for 3,500 officers for AFISM-CAR, 2,000 of which are from the Economic Community of Central African States for the Consolidation of Peace in CAR (MICOPAX).

Thus, Gaye continues, some 1,500 new officials will be recruited for the force.

"This force has released a mandate to protect the population, restoring law and order, stabilizing the country, reforming the army, and supporting the humanitarian aid," Gaye tells MediaGlobal News.

However, Amos explained at the meeting that AFISM-CAR needs the support of the Council to actually become integrated.

"To support the restoration of security and stability in CAR, I ask the Council to treat the request for support by the AU for AFISM-CAR with urgency," said Amos. "It is critical for the continued safety of humanitarian operation that the AU mission has the funds and logistical support to operate effectively."

Sewa, a non-profit based in Washington which centralizes support for CAR citizens, expressed the importance of international commitment towards CAR.

"It has become a forgotten subject," Eric Kibande, Member of SEWA New York, tells MediaGlobal News.

"The Coup happened back in March, and there is still anarchy, murders, and looting. There is no security in the entirety of the CAR," says Kibande. "We are looking for the AU forces that will be deployed in our country under the UN flag. The countries surrounding CAR should be in the force."

As a result of the more than 206,000 internally displaced people and 58,870 refugees, only 20 percent of health services are operational.

Additionally, recent reports indicate only 32 percent of a total of $195 million in contributions have been raised for Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)'s 2013 fundraising appeal.

However, both Gaye and WFP's Melby indicate a promising trend in regards to discussion over the crisis.

"These kinds of visits and the commitments of the Council members - all of these actions will bear some fruit which will mobilize more support for CAR," Gaye tells MediaGlobal News.

Melby explained that the recent visit of Amos and the Security Council discussions have been very beneficial.

"This is a crisis that has been building for a long time," Melby explains to MediaGlobal News. "It is crucial that people talk about it."

In a statement to the press after the August 14 meeting, Amos expressed that CAR is "not a forgotten crisis."

Amos ended her statement with a call for the Security Council to escalate and consolidate efforts.

"The Council is ceased of the seriousness of the situation on the ground and are ceased of the importance of supporting the African-led force inside of CAR," Amos explained. "How the Council does that in the medium to long-term will be the subject of further discussion."

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