|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Secretary-General’s Special Representative
on Situation in Central African Republic
The political and security situation in the Central African Republic remained “highly, highly volatile” following the 24 March coup that ousted President François Bozizé, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Special Representative Margaret Vogt said that, during a 3 April summit in N’Djamena, capital of Chad, leaders from the African Union and the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had agreed on a common approach to restore stability. It would entail creating a national transitional council that would replace Parliament and electing a transitional Government, she added. The Libreville Peace Agreement would provide the legal basis upon which a new transitional arrangement would be built.
“This is extremely important,” she said, emphasizing that a return to legality was critical, as was recognition of the “new reality” that Michel Nondokro Djotodia’s Séléka group had taken over the country. The proposed national transitional council would be constructed in an inclusive manner to ensure that all its members were free to express themselves — “the spirit and the letter” of the Libreville Agreement.
Ms. Vogt — who had just briefed the Security Council on the situation — said she had outlined her concerns about the deteriorating security situation, which was “extremely delicate and fragile”. Séléka elements did not appear to be operating in a cohesive fashion, and there were reports that children, some of whom had previously been separated from military groups, were being recruited into armed elements. In turn, Council members asked how the political framework could be advanced through the N’Djamena Agreement, and what they could do to support the accord.
On the “dire” humanitarian front, she said access was extremely limited due to the security situation. Looting, including of humanitarian supplies, continued and the United Nations was working to bring in fresh stocks, although the number of case loads had also expanded, with almost every citizen now requiring assistance. New assessments were being carried out to determine needs. In addition, there had been reports of sexual violence against women, both in the provinces and now in the capital, Bangui, which required urgent international attention.
A new political arrangement to bring the country back “from the brink” must take the security situation into account, she said, stressing: “Without security we cannot go too far.” Many leaders, including some who were meant to run the Government, could no longer return to their homes, either because they feared for their lives or because their houses had been looted. The United Nations would continue to work with ECCAS, the African Union and the European Union to restore peace and stability, she said.
Asked why the “initial” Libreville Agreement had failed, Ms. Vogt said the 11 January accord had not failed, but was “a work in progress”. A number of its provisions had been fulfilled and the Agreement had created a national unity Government, she recalled, conceding, however, that there were questions about how representative it was. However, the situation would eventually be “recalibrated”, she said, noting that the level of representation in the Government established by Séléka was worse.
“Weakness in implementation does not necessarily signal failure,” she continued. The fundamental issue was the commitment by some to ensure implementation of the Libreville Agreement, she said, pointing out that some Séléka elements were opposed to the fact that it had been signed, and one in particular had contested it from the beginning.
Asked whether Mr. Djotodia could run for election in 18 months, she said that, according to the Libreville Agreement and the N’Djamena Agreement, the head of the transitional Government and its ministers were not eligible to run for office.
Regarding the search for [Lord’s Resistance Army leader] Joseph Kony, she said: “I’m afraid we are handicapped in providing you with a clear answer,” noting that the United Nations was no longer on the ground due to the security situation. The Organization now relied on secondary reports about whether the search had resumed.
Asked whether the fighting continued and how many children were being recruited, Ms. Vogt said she was not yet in a position to provide clarity due to the security situation, but she hoped soon to provide specific documentation. National partners that were normally in a position to help also faced serious problems in that regard, she added.
Asked whether minorities and foreigners were being targeted by Séléka or other rebels, she said there had been several reports of discrimination in the Séléka attacks. It was “almost quite clear” that churches and the homes of religious leaders had been attacked, she said, adding that market stalls belonging to some people had also been attacked. However, that line was becoming blurred because practically everything had been looted.
When asked how the departure of South African troops would affect security, she said that politically, it was probably important for them to withdraw because “nobody wants to be part of this problem”. There was an obvious need for a different arrangement to restore peace and security, including one involving other African countries, Ms. Vogt added.
The United Nations had not yet conducted a body count of the South African troops killed, she continued, noting that it was relying on numbers provided by the South African contingent. Their presence in the country was not new, she said, pointing out that they had been operating there under a bilateral agreement.
She said she did not know why South African troops had been caught in the crossfire. They had been working with the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), whose mandate had been changed following the Libreville Agreement to include combat forces tasked with securing Bangui.
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