1 May 2014

Central African Republic: 'So Far We Have Failed' Says OCHA Official of Central African Republic

Photo: voice of America
Central African Republic's Michel Djotodia.

United Nations — The United Nations leader of humanitarian operations John Ging warned that the Central African Republic (CAR) "continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate" even as the international community fails to provide the needed resources and political commitment to aid the 1 million people affected by the violence.

"So far we have failed the Central African Republic," Ging, who is Director of the Operational Division for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told UN reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

Since a military coup plunged the country into violence last March, over 600,000 people have been internally displaced and more than 330,000 have become refugees in neighboring states. Ging said in the past three months at least 2,000 people have been killed as a result of clashes between the Muslim Séléka and Christian anti-Balaka forces.

Animosity between Muslim and Christian communities has intensified, and Central Africans are "consumed by fear, despair, and hopelessness that is grounded in the reality of their experience."

Rebel groups on both sides of the conflict operate with impunity. Media and human rights organizations have reported numerous beheadings, acts of violence against children and women including rape, abduction, and forced marriage. In January, a senior UN official stated that the number of sexual violence victims in the CAR was "astronomical."

Ging said that during his most recent visit he was "struck" by how often he perceived strong rhetoric and ideology supporting ethnic cleansing. "That's very worrying, that's a foundation for further atrocity," he said. "People are losing their humanity." Ging added that, unless halted by the actions of member states, the religious tension between Muslims and Christians would spread and "infect" neighboring countries, destabilizing the entire region.

UN leaders have repeatedly raised the alarm of the possibility of genocide. Upon his return from the CAR last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a BBC op-ed that without swift intervention by member states, the CAR could become "another Rwanda."

"Desperate is an understatement," Ban wrote of the conditions in the CAR.

When asked about the arrival of UN peacekeeping forces in September, Ging said "security is needed now" for civilians. "What's going to happen between now and when the mission actually stands up?" he asked. "They need security now."

Funding also remains a huge obstacle, Ging told the press. Only $123 million, or 28 percent, of the $551 million appeal has been funded so far.

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