Deputy Secretary-General's press encounter following his briefing to the Security Council on the Central African Republic
New York, 25 November 2013
Good afternoon members of the press,
We have had an open session on the very critical situation in the Central African Republic, CAR, and we have had a closed session that has lasted for almost two hours.
I have clearly noted a great unity of views in dealing with this extremely situation with extended violence, a vicious cycle of violence that could very easily turn into mass atrocities. And this danger, I think, gave a serious dimension to the discussions which we already spoke about in the report of the Secretary-General last week. We hope very much now that there will be quick action. It is not as much a problem of early warning – we have had this warning for a long time. The question now is timely response and we are certain that the French mission and its Perm Rep [Permanent Representative] will quickly produce a resolution because we need to work urgently to make sure that there is improved security on the ground.
The present forecast is that there will be a strengthened MISCA [African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic]. There will also be contributions from Member States in agreement with the authorities in CAR. But we have also been asked by several missions to start contingency planning for a possible UN peacekeeping operation depending on the situation on the ground and of course in the end on the agreement of the Security Council.
It is urgent to stabilize the situation, to stop this violence from spreading and reduce influence from the outside and, of course, protect civilians and to make possible humanitarian assistance which is urgently needed. So I would say that this has been a meeting where a serious response was planned and I hope that we will soon see a resolution. Above all, I hope that we will soon see presence on the ground that will stabilize the situation and prevent this conflict from getting out of control completely.
Q: You recommended, I believe, in your opening remarks – I think it was your 5th option for a strengthened UN peacekeeping force. It sounded like that was a pretty definitive recommendation you were making. Now, I think you just said that some Member States had asked you to produce some contingency planning for the possibility of a future peacekeeping force. There seems to be a little bit of a gap there. Can you explain?
DSG: Well I think there was a rather unified view of the need for a UN peacekeeping operation. The question was when such an operation could be on the ground. After all, even for a UN peacekeeping operation, it would take some time to have it on the ground, while we already have MISCA, the African troops on the ground. The Secretary-General certainly gives priority to the UN peacekeeping operation but the question is when such an operation will be able to starts its operation.
Q: Mr. Deputy Secretary-General. What kind of idea did you give the Council in terms of when? What timing?
DSG: Well, everything is as soon as possible. As you may know, the Government of the Central African Republic has asked France to send extra personnel – they already have around 400 people there – and now they will expand that. The French Ambassador will probably be able to say more about this. As for MISCA, they also have introduced figures and an increase of their presence. We hope that will happen as soon as possible.
Q: The reports of Government military commanders, one is named Abdallah Hamat actually ordering, what seems to be a kind of atrocity – the burning down of a town called Camp Bangui. The Human Rights Watch report about this is pretty detailed, saying that this is a test for the Government whether they will hold this commander to account. What is your sense of the Government’s own role, both in the violence and sectarianism etc?
DSG: I don’t know the details about this situation that you describe. I would say the situation is rather chaotic. There is lacking control [by] the Government of the Seleka movement. There is also lacking control of the anti-Muslim, anti-Seleka groups that are now fighting the Seleka movement. So there is a risk of a rather anarchic situation arising and that’s why there is a need for stability to come from the outside at this moment. We hope very much that there will also be possibilities for us to introduce humanitarian assistance which could also have a positive stabilizing effect.
Q: Can you say how the Secretariat’s briefing today and actions relate to this new plan on human rights since the Sri Lanka….?
DSG: This is first case where the so-called “Rights Up Front” process is being discussed. This has to do with the enhanced role of human rights and looking at human rights violations as the first sign of serious conflict and also the importance of protection of civilians. That work has started after the Sri Lanka report, as you know, earlier this year, and we are now seeing this Central African Republic situation as a practical example of how we should act before the situation deteriorates further. It is serious enough already, but now is the time to react very strongly and this explains, I think, the tone of urgency of the Secretary-General’s report last week and my presentation here today.
So thank you very much and I suppose the Perm. Rep. [Permanent Representative] of France is available to say a few words.