21 February 2014

Central African Republic: UN Head Says More Humanitarian Aid, Troops Needed in Central African Republic

Photo: Médecins Sans Frontierès
A young patient at Batangafo hospital.

The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is rapidly deteriorating and additional humanitarian aid and troops are needed, the head of the United Nations said Thursday.

In a meeting with the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged members to adopt his six-point plan of action for the CAR, in which he outlined the need for substantial funding from the international community.

Ban said the country is "on the verge of mass atrocities" and that more than 2.5 million people, over half the country's population, require immediate aid. To date, only 15 percent of funding requested for humanitarian operations has been received. UNICEF alone has appealed for $64 million this year to help the children of CAR.

At least 2,000 people have been killed and some 700,000 have been displaced since December, including 270,000 in Bangui, the country's capital. UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, reported an additional 20,000 refugees have arrived in Cameroon since the beginning of February. Since March 2013, over 35,000 CAR civilians have fled to Cameroon.

"The international community must act decisively now to prevent any further worsening of the situation and to respond to the dire needs of the country's people," Ban told the Council.

The Secretary-General's plan also called for an additional 3,000 troops and an allocation of $38 million in logistical support for African forces already there.

"Our vow of 'never again' is meaningless without the political, military, and financial muscle to back it up," Ban told reporters at a stakeout after the meeting. He said a plan for a peacekeeping operation is in the works but, even if approved, it would be several months before implementation.

Permanent Representative of France to the UN, Ambassador Gérard Araud, estimated that a mission would not be in place before September or October.

"It's really very, very tentative. We have not yet negotiated a resolution, we have not voted on it. We would need, I would say, six months," Araud said. France has sent 2,000 troops to the CAR who are working alongside 6,000 African peacekeepers.

Valerie Amos, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, in Bangui this week meeting with leaders including CAR's Interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza, said that "time is of the essence if we don't want to fail the people of CAR."

"The situation requires a political solution," Amos told reporters. "But in the meantime the humanitarian community is at the forefront of efforts to support people in need."

Amos was unable to visit northern parts of the country due to the intensity of fighting intensified between Muslim Séléka rebels and the Christian militia known as "anti-balaka."

The Emergency Relief Coordinator said she was shocked by the conditions she witnessed during her three-day visit to the country, and acknowledged that more on-the-ground support was needed.

These violent clashes by Muslim and Christian groups are "laying the seeds of conflict and instability for years, maybe generations, to come," Ban said in a statement.

When asked by the press if acts of genocide had occurred in the CAR, the Secretary-General responded that he would not give specifics, only that the situation is "deteriorating rapidly and we must act."

"The country is in a de facto partition and is on the verge of mass atrocities, but for any specific characterization of the situation, we will have to continue to monitor," he said.

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