Central African civil society urges the UN to put CAR as a top priority
In September 2013, the Central Africa Republic was the focus of discussions at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York because of the dramatic situation in this country since the beginning of the year and the little attention it had received so far on the international scene. A delegation of the CAR civil society, sponsored by ACORD, CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Secours Catholique-Caritas France, was present in New York to testify to the situation in their country and to alert the international community on the urgent need to intervene.
The UN Security Council has approved sending troops to the Central African Republic to protect a UN political mission following the massive crisis that has rendered the country chaotic. The 15-member UN Security Council adopted a resolution late October urging the United Nations to consider establishing a full-fledged peacekeeping force. It also asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for plans for a guard force to protect the UN Integrated Peace building Office, known as BINUCA.
Ki-moon suggested an initial redeployment of 250 troops from another UN peacekeeping operation and subsequently increasing the force to 560 troops. The African Union also plans to deploy a 3,600-member peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MISCA. There is currently a 1,100-strong regional force on the ground but is not expected to be operational before 2014.
CAR civil society organisations made their voices heard during a high-level meeting organized by UN-OCHA and the European Union that was held on the sidelines of the General Assembly to mobilize the international community to support the CAR. The delegation comprised of Beatrice Epaye, member of the National Transitional Council; Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame Gbangou, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Alliance of Evangelicals in Central Africa Republic; and Master Mathias Morouba, President of the Central African Observatory of Human Rights.
The delegation met with a large number of diplomatic representations to the United Nations and members of the Security Council. The team also met with representations of the European Union, United Nations agencies and international NGOs. The delegation issued a "Call to the crisis in the Central African Republic," which calls on member states and the Security Council to pay attention to issues of insecurity, impunity and human rights. In view of present risks of inter-religious confrontation, the delegation asserted a return to peace in CAR will not be possible without the participation of the civil society, and it would be dangerous to consult only political or military forces to build a new Central Africa Republic.
The delegation then traveled to Washington, where they challenged a wide audience of congressional representatives and the World Bank, diplomats, government officials, and researchers. The facilitator of the conference was the former U.S. Ambassador to Central Africa. It is estimated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that over half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with atrocities being reported against the civilian population. According to media reports, armed groups are inciting Christian and Muslim communities against each other and instilling widespread fear. The crimes included mutilation, rape and torture. The UN children's fund UNICEF said in early October that at least 70 per cent of schoolchildren were not attending class with about 65 per cent of schools surveyed by the UN looted, occupied or damaged.
Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium, but decades of instability and the spillover from conflicts in its larger neighbours have left the country mired in cycles of crises.
ACORD has been working in Central African Republic since 2009 and has recently conducted a regional research on conflict dynamics in CAR, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, and has committed, together with CCFD-Terre Solidaire and local partners in the four countries, to a 10-year plan for addressing conflict and aiming to build sustainable peace.