|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7206th Meeting (PM)
Deadly Attacks in Central African Republic Test International Efforts
to Restore Calm, Special Representative Tells Security Council
The security situation in the Central African Republic remained tense, with a series of deadly attacks and spontaneous demonstrations testing the local and international community’s ability to bring calm to that nation, the Security Council heard today.
Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), briefed the 15-member body on developments as that new operation assumed authority in military and police matters from the African Union-led peacekeeping operation, known as MISCA, on 15 September.
With preparations for full deployment of the 12,000-strong Mission under way to help stabilize the crisis-affected country, Mr. Gaye, speaking via video-teleconference from the capital of Bangui, highlighted the risk of a worsening situation as the nation struggled to recover from a Government takeover in 2013.
Reporting on recent events, Mr. Gaye highlighted the attack in May on a church in Bangui, which had resulted in the deaths of 11 people, including a priest. That, among other violent events, illustrated not only a dangerous spiral of violence but also a radicalization of both parties — the largely Christian anti-balaka and mainly Muslim Séléka rebels — and underlined the risk of a deepening deterioration of the situation.
He said that following that incident, three young Muslims were killed just days later. Those events had led to spontaneous demonstrations, forcing barricades to be erected inside the city, which was paralyzed for days and resulted in the deaths of three more people. The clashes were focused in the east and centre of the country, as well as in the north-east along the Chadian border.
Civilians were the target of the violence, he said, noting that earlier this week, 18 people, including three children and one woman, had been killed in another attack. Some 20,000 people from 16 locations were prevented from leaving, even amid cut-offs of food and medical supplies. While everything was being done to stabilize the situation and protect civilians, a stronger response was needed.
Human rights violations were being committed by all armed groups, he said, adding that 360,000 had fled for neighbouring countries. Efforts to reverse the ongoing insecurity were moving “too slowly”, as the Government attempted to stabilize the situation without its own security forces or necessary finances.
A deep divide bred social antagonism and mistrust, he said, adding that that situation did not bode well for the holding of credible elections in 2015. To achieve a lasting security, disarmament was vital. Central Africans were ready for dialogue, leading to a political agreement in the run-up to the elections. There was a need meanwhile to support the negotiating process and the surrender of weapons.
While that dialogue must be “owned” by the Central Africans, there could be no lasting solutions without United Nations engagement, he stressed, noting that the international community’s attention had helped prevent the country from “falling into a spiral of violence”. MISCA continued to make all necessary efforts to back the authorities and people as they faced up to immediate challenges. Nevertheless, the situation remained “complex and multifaceted”. Additional forces and the continued commitment of the region and international community would be critical in achieving the objectives.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said she had been to Bangui one month ago. The goal of the visit was to give visibility to the plight of women and girls and ensure that gender issues were addressed from the outset in the newly established United Nations mission, as well as promote women’s participation and leadership in local reconciliation, national dialogues, transitional justice, and upcoming elections.
“What we heard and what we saw was terrifying,” she said. Displaced people throughout the country sought shelter under plastic covers or pieces of cloth in inhumane conditions, surrounded by stagnant water and garbage, vulnerable to waterborne diseases. The international community had received reports of rape, sexual slavery and early and forced marriages perpetrated by armed actors. Many girls subjected to forced marriages became pregnant, miscarried or contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Ninety per cent of the internally displaced persons camps lacked services for survivors of gender-based violence and there were an untold number of pregnant women in the camps who did not have access to basic reproductive and obstetric care. “This is a matter of life and death in a country where a woman’s risk of maternal death is already 140 times higher than in developed countries,” she warned.
What she had heard repeatedly from women were pleas for security, rule of law, health care, food and schools for their children, she said. Almost two thirds of schools remained closed. Neighbouring countries were struggling to provide adequate support to tens of thousands of refugees. For example, Cameroon now hosted approximately 100,000 newly-arrived refugees, 84 per cent of whom were women and children that arrived after travelling for many days. They arrived to find one nurse and less than a few dozen hygiene and medical kits. It was important to highlight those alarming facts, since as of today, less than one third of the humanitarian appeal had been funded by the international community.
She urged the Council to implement the gender equality recommendations issued by the United Nations electoral needs assessment mission. Priority should be given to quotas for women representation. Stronger action must be taken to protect civilians and restore the rule of law. This year there would be an initial deployment of gender advisers and women’s protection advisers. There must be more women in the military, police and civilian components of the Mission. UN-Women and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would offer specialized training to all troop-contributing countries before they deploy, focused on the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence.
Marguerite Marie Maliavo-Samba, Minister for Public Health and Social Affairs, Gender and Humanitarian Action of the Central African Republic, said her country must respond to several challenges, paramount among them being women who were the main victims of the crisis. The security challenge was daunting as there was no national army, the judiciary was “sick”, the national police needed rehabilitation and judges and others could not return to their posts.
The perpetrators, she went on, had an “open field” in which to carry out their “evil work”. Public institutions were incapable of delivering, owing to the insecurity in the region, and those in remote regions were especially affected. Additionally, the rule of law was “practically confined” to the capital, as a State presence had not yet taken hold throughout the country.
She called on the Security Council to support her nation, as lives were lost every second. The ongoing crisis, however, was not sectarian in nature, as was broadly reported; it had begun as a community problem with a sectarian result. It was political and the product of a negative role played by the media on national and international levels.
Owing to the country’s limited means, the Government must feel it had the support necessary to bring the criminals who continued to kill and rape to justice, she said. There should be swift and effective action and mobilization to meet humanitarian needs as only one third of the necessary funding had been received. All were suffering in the camps for the internally displaced, and refugees in other countries must also be taken into account.
In closing, she said the regional scope of the crisis must not be ignored and, thus, urgent assistance and humanitarian aid should be directed not only to the people within the country, but also to those citizens outside.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record