CONFRONTATION COULD SPARK CONFLAGRATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, WARNS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, SPELLING OUT OPTIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
NEW YORK, November 26, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic today:
I thank the Council for this opportunity to brief you on the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic.
We face a profoundly important test of international solidarity and of our responsibility to prevent atrocities. A country in the heart of Africa is descending into complete chaos before our eyes. The situation requires prompt and decisive action to place protection of the people of the Central African Republic in the centre.
That is why the Secretary-General issued a strong warning to this Council last week. And that is why he has asked me to present a detailed report to you today on the findings of the Technical Assistance Mission that has recently returned from the Central African Republic, and on our observations on these findings. He has in the last few days also been in contact with African leaders who have expressed their concern of the situation and the need for a robust international response to it.
As that report shows, the country faces a desperate security situation. There is a breakdown of law and order. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination. As we see far too often, children and women are at the greatest risk. Human rights violations are mounting. The use of child soldiers is rising. Sexual violence is growing. There are widespread reports of looting, illegal checkpoints, extortion, arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions.
The Secretary-General is particularly concerned over the alarming increase in inter-communal violence. Traditional harmony among communities has been replaced by polarization and widespread horror. The manipulation of religious affiliations for political purposes has fuelled never-before-seen sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians, particularly in the north-west and south-east of the country. Former Séléka elements are deemed responsible for most human rights violations against the civilian population. Yet, we are also deeply concerned by abuses by “anti-balaka” — well-organized self-defence or vigilante groups. This confrontation may develop into a conflagration.
The influence of religious leaders to prevent violence is diminishing, as the conflict has brought to light years of marginalization and discrimination against the northern, predominantly Muslim, population. I welcome the efforts by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Babacar Gaye, and the transitional authorities to establish mediation and reconciliation committees and take other steps to find practical solutions and to defuse tension in Bossangoa and elsewhere.
As recognized by the Council in resolution 2121 (2013), the human rights capacity of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office [in the Central African Republic] (BINUCA) is sorely inadequate. It is also hampered by a lack of access in the present security climate. We welcome the upcoming deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission, as well as a planned joint mission by the offices of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
In his report, the Secretary-General calls for urgent measures to end the pervasive impunity and to ensure accountability. I appeal to the Council to respond creatively to this end, including by considering accountability mechanisms such as a commission of inquiry and/or targeted sanctions.
At the same time, humanitarian needs are escalating. Virtually the entire population — 4.6 million people — has been affected by the emergency. One out of three people in the country is in dire need of food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter. Access to populations in need remains difficult — and funding is woefully short. The Consolidated Appeal of $195 million has received less than half of the funding required. And the needs keep rising. Our humanitarian colleagues have developed a six-point action plan to mobilize at the global, regional, national and local levels, and I call for an urgent response to this humanitarian crisis.
The restoration of security, law and order is the precondition for addressing the political, human rights and humanitarian problems. The capacity of the country's armed forces and security services to prevent and confront such threats is virtually non-existent. According to the Ministry of Defence, nearly 7,000 of the Forces armées centrafricaines have returned to Bangui but are neither deployed nor operational. Former Séléka units have assumed the responsibility of the national defence and security forces. Further, some 5,000 former Séléka are to be integrated into the security services.
However, there is no agreed plan or agreed budget for the reconstitution of the national security forces. The Central African Republic is becoming a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups in a region that is already suffering from conflict and instability. If this situation is left to fester, it may develop into a religious and ethnic conflict with long-standing consequences, even a civil war that could spread into neighbouring countries. It is critical for the international community and the Council to act now.
The need for decisive action is also essential for ensuring that preparations for the elections can proceed in accordance with the Transitional Charter. As reiterated by the Council and the International Contact Group, the elections should be held within 18 months of the inauguration of the Head of State of the Transition, that is, by February 2015, and we have no time to lose.
In response to Security Council resolution 2121 (2013), the Secretary-General dispatched an interagency Technical Assessment Mission to the Central African Republic from 27 October to 8 November, led by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, present here today.
The Mission was tasked to develop options for international support to the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR, (MISCA), including its possible transformation into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, subject to appropriate conditions on the ground and to the decision of the Security Council.
We thank the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), who were a critical part of the mission, and we are gratified that the African Union is represented here today by Ambassador [Adonia] Ayebare and, of course, we have the presence of the Secretary-General of ECCAS, Ahmad Allam-Mi, here today. And I also thank the authorities of the Central African Republic for welcoming the Mission. I am pleased to see them here today.
The African Union and ECCAS agree that there is an urgent need for the international community to act, and that a United Nations peacekeeping mandate with a robust mandate will be required. In recent days, the Secretary-General has had, as I mentioned earlier, productive discussions with the African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, and Ahmad Allam-Mi, to underline his deep concerns about the situation and his agreement with them that a strong peacekeeping force is needed in the Central African Republic.
While in the country, the Mission listened to a wide range of national and international stakeholders and they were unanimous in their calls for rapid action, including deployment of an effective and impartial force to protect civilians, deter human rights violations, restore security and prevent the occurrence of mass violence.
The Mission observed that, despite its best efforts, the capacity of the ECCAS-led peacekeeping force — MICOPAX [ Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic] — to protect civilians is seriously limited. While the recent deployment of MICOPAX has had a deterrent effect in some locations, some contingents are perceived as siding with particular communities based on religion. MICOPAX troops are also struggling with limited logistical support — , lacking equipment and means of communication — as well as with mobility constraints.
Significant external support would therefore be required to enable MISCA to implement its mandate and stabilize the situation. The report before you presents five options for international support to MISCA:
i) bilateral and multilateral support arrangements;
ii) United Nations support funded through a trust fund in addition to bilateral and multilateral support;
iii) limited United Nations support funded through assessed and voluntary contributions, combined with bilateral and multilateral support;
iv) a comprehensive United Nations support package funded through assessed contributions; and lastly
v) the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
A majority of those with whom the Mission met called for the fifth option, a United Nations peacekeeping operation. Support for this option has also been requested by a number of civil society organizations.
The transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, with an estimated strength of 6,000 troops and 1,700 police personnel, would lay the foundation for transparent, accountable and resilient institutions. A United Nations peacekeeping operation would ensure a multidimensional, integrated approach and enhance the international community's ability to apply political leverage, we would hope.
Since the Mission was deployed and the Secretary-General's report before you was issued, the Head of State of the Transition has written to inform the Secretary-General of his request for assistance from France. The Head of State of the Transition has characterized the current situation as a threat to international peace and security.
The virtual meltdown in the Central African Republic requires a coherent, integrated and multidimensional response, which will address both the root causes and the present manifestations of the crisis. In the Secretary-General's assessment, the response must be commensurate with the complexity of the crisis and the desperate protection needs of the population. It must be robust and prevent what has a high potential to result in widespread atrocities.
The Secretary-General has recently renewed the commitment of the United Nations to uphold our responsibilities whenever there is a threat of serious and large-scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. He is committed to bringing to the attention of the appropriate United Nations bodies such serious violations, in particular when national authorities are unable to respond. Reporting to you today is part of this commitment to place Rights Up Front fundamentally laid down in the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We believe that a United Nations peacekeeping operation will be needed in the Central African Republic. However, the transfer of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation would require some lead time for necessary preparations. We therefore urge the international community to now support MISCA in as comprehensive and predictable manner as possible, but to also begin considering the option of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
The people of the Central African Republic have hardly ever had the opportunity to fully experience peace and security. They need our help. Some call this a forgotten crisis. The world is haunted by the horrors of crises spiralling into atrocities. We have watched from a distance.
The United Nations, the African Union, ECCAS and the Central African Republic authorities all recognize the urgency to stop this crisis from escalating beyond control.
It is now for the Council to decide how it can best contribute to this goal.