20 February 2014

Central African Republic Cannot Wait for United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Presenting Interim Proposals

Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch
Seleka commanders visit peacekeepers (file photo)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the Security Council today, urged deployment of at least 3,000 more troops and police in the Central African Republic to reinforce existing African Union and French forces, also proposing that those be brought under a single command, with a view to the handover to a future United Nations peacekeeping operation there.

Mr. Ban, presenting a six-point initiative to the 15-member body, said that the imminent crisis did not allow the people of the Central African Republic to wait for the establishment of a United Nations mission, which could take months. He promised to report to the Council "soon" on the outlines of an operation, urging the international community to "act decisively" to prevent a worsening of the situation.

Noting that France would increase its troops by 25 per cent to 2,000 and that the European Union was poised to beef up its planned deployment from 500 to 1,000, he stressed that "more are needed" and urged the wider international community to share the burden. Under a single coordinated command, those forces should focus on the most urgent priorities: containing the violence; protecting civilians; preventing further displacements; creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and laying the groundwork for the handover to a United Nations peacekeeping force as soon as possible, he said.

The Secretary-General also proposed that the African troops joining that force be provided with logistical and financial support, including rations, water and fuel, and reimbursement for their major non-lethal military equipment. The estimated cost of that package, consisting of the bare essentials, would be $38 million for a six-month bridging period.

He also called for rapid, tangible support to the Government of the Central African Republic to help it establish a minimum capacity to function. That support should include the financial assistance necessary to get police back on the streets, judges back in the courtrooms, and prison guards back on the job.

His proposal also included an accelerated political and reconciliation process to prevent a further fraying of the communal bonds and to lay the ground for an end to the conflict. Community and religious leaders would have an especially important role to play in promoting tolerance, peaceful coexistence and non-violence. The plan also called for urgent funding for humanitarian aid, which was currently insufficient to address the crisis. Only 15 per cent of the resources needed for this year had been received, despite generous pledges made at last month's funding conference in Brussels, he said.

Smail Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, said preventive efforts to address the situation in the Central African Republic had not succeeded. Since December, the environment had been marked by extreme violence against civilians, forced displacements and religious hatreds that had damaged social cohesion. The Union deployed two additional battalions to Kinshasa yesterday, he said, confirming that the mission had almost reached its authorized strength of 6,000 personnel.

Yet, crimes against civilians and vandalism persisted, and displaced persons -- including those living at the airport -- had not been able to return home. The African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and France's Sangaris operation were establishing checkpoints and conducting daily patrols. The deployment of 4,000 military personnel to the countryside was also under way. "We must be more effective in our action", he said, adding that MISCA was resolved to meet that challenge. Its activities included protecting transitional leaders, facilitating humanitarian assistance, and, along with Sangaris, implementing measures to neutralize anti-Balaka militias. Insufficient logistics and communications means, limited Government capacity, and the lack of a judicial system were among the challenges MISCA faced.

He went on to say that in a 17 February 2014 letter, the President of the African Union Commission had proposed a number of measures to improve effectiveness, including the reinforcement of MISCA police, personnel and equipment. Measures were also needed to consolidate gains and ensure lasting security, he said, referring to the payment of salaries for public servants and resumption of basic public services, including for the core security forces, the judicial system and penitentiaries. He also called for commitment by regional leaders.

Urging the Council to favour the establishment of a logistics support module for MISCA, the Commissioner said: "We are at a crucial stage of our efforts as we vie for success in the Central African Republic." To protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian access and create transitional conditions, the challenges ahead required collective involvement.

Mesmin Dembassa Worogagoi ( Central African Republic) highlighted the dire situation for civilians, who had been displaced and staying at airports, churches and mosques, and the urgency to address their needs before the arrival of a rainy season. Other challenges included creating a safer security situation, rebuilding State authority and preparing for elections. Given current circumstances, he called for the swift deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation, stressing that it must be decided as soon as possible. A United Nations peacekeeping mission and MISCA would complement each other, he added.

The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.

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