NEW YORK, March 7, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members Hear from Heads of Peacekeeping, Humanitarian, Refugee Agency as African, Country Representatives Offer Regional, National Perspectives
Despite significant and progressive gains made by African Union and French troops in the Central African Republic, the situation in the strife-torn country remained extremely grave, senior officials told the Security Council today, urging immediate action to prevent further bloodshed.
Briefing on the latest security and humanitarian developments were Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and Téte António, Permanent Observer for the African Union. The time to act was now, they agreed, echoing the call in the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2014/142) to authorize deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
Mr. Ladsous said there was a window of opportunity to build the foundations for peace in the Central African Republic. The Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a multidimensional mission would aim at re-hatting the troops currently deployed in the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) as soon as possible. The focus would be on bolstering security and protecting human rights, as well as supporting the transitional Government, and peace and mediation efforts.
The mission should be part of the broader international engagement to address the daunting needs of the population, he explained, adding, however, that “there will be no quick fix” to ending the violence and massive human rights violations, and restoring security. The crisis required a unified and integrated approach with civilian protection as its core. Delaying any sustainable response would be more costly and could destabilize the region.
Mr. António agreed, outlining the principles around which MISCA’s transformation into a peacekeeping operation must be informed, stressing that without national ownership, no amount of international support could bring lasting solutions. There was a need to strongly promote the region’s role — and that of the African Union — in the post-MISCA phase in order to anchor in a strong regional and continental context.
Further, a peacekeeping operation must be part of a broader international engagement in support of the country, he said, noting that implementation of the MISCA mandate was critical. The African Union Commission and the United Nations Secretariat should jointly define the terms of reference of the transition team, generate forces and agree on the modalities for re-hatting MISCA’s contingents. The African Union should be consulted from the outset on the draft resolution to mandate deployment.
On the humanitarian front, Ms. Amos said more than 650,000 people were still internally displaced, with at least 232,000 in Bangui alone. Some 70,000 people were living at the airport in “appalling” conditions, which would deteriorate with the onset of the rainy season. More than 288,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries and thousands more were trying to leave. “Unless the current trajectory is urgently reversed, the demographic and social changes taking place will have severe and lasting consequences for the country, the region and the continent,” she warned.
Humanitarian assistance alone could not resolve the crisis, she said, stressing the need to restore security. While French and MISCA forces had saved lives, they did not have the resources to provide security throughout the large country. More troops were needed now. She recommended a coordinated operational focus on four geographic areas: Bossangoa, Bria, N’Dele and Bambari, where communities still lived together and a combination of international, national and local efforts could make an immediate difference.
The humanitarian response was severely underfunded, she added, stressing that only 16 per cent of the $551 million appeal had been met.
Mr. Guterres similarly expressed his alarm at ground conditions. “Rarely has a field visit in my eight-year tenure as High Commissioner caused me such anguish as my recent trip to the Central African Republic,” he said. “I was deeply shocked by the barbarity, brutality and inhumanity that have characterized the violence happening in the country and its consequences on the suffering of the people.”
He urged robust international support to address the dire needs of refugees, internally displaced persons and the host communities within and outside the country that had generously taken them in. Inside the Central African Republic, re-establishing security, law and order was the most important protection and humanitarian objective, he said, underlining the real danger of religious tensions threatening to completely destroy society.
Offering the national perspective, Toussaint Kongo Doudou, Central African Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Integration, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad, said his Government would provide the necessary political support for the recommendations. Any peacekeeping operation must be multidimensional and multifunctional, and take a holistic approach. MISCA must serve as the basis for a new mission, he said, voicing hope for the quick adoption of a “robust” resolution authorizing deployment within six months.
“We need to act now”, he said, to prevent the Central African Republic from becoming a breeding ground for terrorism. That, he added, was “not far off”. Elements of the Janjaweed had already been involved in abuses, and threats had been made by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which must be taken seriously. “Terrorism, whether we like it or not, is way ahead of those of us working for peace,” he said. “Please, we need your help”, he implored, warning that with any delay, “we may lose the country”.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:15 a.m.