Bangui, Central African Republic

08 November 2013

Secretary-General's message to Meeting of the International Contact Group on the Central African Republic [as prepared for delivery] [delivered by Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs]

I thank the African Union and the Mediator of the Economic Community of Central African States for the Central African Republic crisis, His Excellency President Sassou N'Guesso, for inviting the United Nations to participate in the third meeting of this International Contact Group.  I thank the Government of the Central African Republic for hosting this first meeting of the Group in Bangui.

We meet at a moment of real urgency for the people of the CAR.  They are suffering.  They are vulnerable. Their security, dignity and future must be foremost in the discussions today and in the actions that must be taken as soon as possible to pull the country out of this dire crisis.

All too often in the past, the CAR has been described as a forgotten crisis.  But today more is being done to sound the alarm and mobilize a response. Since the last meeting of the ICG in July, there has been increased awareness about the situation and the plight of its people.

The African Union and ECCAS have strengthened their efforts to support the transitional authorities and agreed to deploy the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic. A high-level meeting on the CAR was organized by the European Union, France and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. And the Security Council adopted its resolution 2121 on 10 October 2013.

The international community is speaking with one voice. We must now translate awareness and concern into effective action to ensure that the crisis is addressed in all its dimensions— security, political, human rights and humanitarian. We must help stop the suffering and act now, without delay.

There has been some movement on the political track.  Most of the transitional institutions and implementation mechanisms are now established.  The Government has developed a draft roadmap for operationalizing the transitional commitments. A key milestone on the horizon will be the holding of free and fair elections within 18 months of the inauguration of the Head of State of the Transition.  I encourage the National Transitional Council to adopt the draft roadmap and promulgate the electoral code as soon as possible. I also encourage the authorities to establish the National Authority for the Elections. The United Nations stands ready, once the NAE is in place, to provide assistance in identifying the technical requirements for the successful organization of elections, defining a more specific calendar and mobilizing resources.

Security remains the most immediate priority and pressing concern.  I am profoundly concerned about the rapid deterioration of security and the rule of law in the Central African Republic, particularly in the countryside, and the corresponding deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

Elements of the ex-Séléka coalition have continued to terrorize the population, with rampant looting and grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detention, sexual violence against women and children, torture, targeted killings and the recruitment of child soldiers. We have also seen the emergence of local self-defence groups and a cycle of targeted attacks and reprisals with religious underpinnings. This is planting the seeds for a long-lasting conflict between communities that have always co-habited peacefully. We must do everything in our power to de-escalate the religious tensions between Muslim and Christian communities.

I remind the national authorities of their responsibility to ensure respect for human rights, to bring perpetrators to justice and protect all Central Africans from abuse. I call on them to take all necessary measures to restore security and the rule of law and to facilitate humanitarian access. The regroupment and cantonment of former Séléka fighters should take place as soon as possible, in compliance with international standards.

I encourage ECCAS to help the authorities organize a national conference as soon as possible, as decided by ECCAS leaders at their last Summit. I urge the international community to provide support to MISCA. A Technical Assessment Mission led by my Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations ended its visit yesterday, and I will report to the Security Council shortly.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has earmarked $2.5 million through the Peacebuilding Fund to support the refurbishment of police and gendarmerie stations in Bangui and the interior. Additional support has also been approved in principle by the PBF to support the regroupment of former Séléka elements.

Finally, let us all recognize that the Central African Republic faces a financial crisis that limits its ability to address the current crisis. While I encourage the international community to help, the level of assistance will depend on the CAR authorities themselves. You must help us to help you. I therefore encourage the Government to make every effort to improve the transparency in the management of the available financial resources.

Excellencies, let me return once again to the urgency of the situation, and the need to act while there is time to prevent any further deterioration.  Sparing the people of the Central African Republic more suffering and insecurity must be our collective goal.  There is a chance to work together to reverse the downward spiral in the CAR and to set the country on a path toward peace and stability.  Time is of the essence.  We cannot let the people of the CAR down at this moment of pressing need.

Thank you for your attention.