With the Central African Republic (CAR) reportedly descending into “complete chaos,” a top UN official has called on the international community for immediate action to halt the deteriorating situation.
Mounting human rights abuses, sexual violence and other “horrors” were cited by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson as reasons for the international community and the world body to “act now”.
“We face a profoundly important test of international solidarity and of our responsibility to protect. We cannot look away. The situation requires prompt and decisive action to place protection of the people of the CAR up front,” he said when presenting a report from a technical assistance team that recently returned from the country.
Plagued by decades of instability and fighting, the CAR witnessed a resumption of violence last December when the Seleka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks, ending in March with President Francois Bozize fleeing the country.
A transitional government, headed by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, has been entrusted with restoring law and order and paving the way for democratic elections. But armed clashes in the north-east have increased since August and the country is facing a dire humanitarian situation affecting virtually the entire population of 4.6 million.
“The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination. As we see far too often, women and children are bearing the brunt. Human rights violations are mounting. The use of child soldiers is rising. Sexual violence is growing. There are widespread reports of looting, illegal checkpoints, extortion, illegal arrests and detentions, torture and summary executions,” he said.
Referring to a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the increase in inter-communal violence Eliasson said: “Harmony among communities has been replaced by horror with manipulation of religious affiliations fuelling never seen before sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims”.
“CAR is becoming a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups in a region already suffering from conflict and instability. If this situation is left to fester it may degenerate into a religious and ethnic conflict with longstanding consequences, a relentless civil war that could easily spill-over into neighbouring countries,” he said.
Both the AU and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) have indicated there is an urgent need for a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate, probably similar to that of the Forward Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC, to be sent to CAR.
The transformation of MICSA, the African-led international support mission in the CAR, into a UN peacekeeping operation, with an estimated strength of 6,000 troops and 1,700 police personnel, would help lay the foundation for transparent, accountable, efficient and resilient institutions governed by the rule of law. Eliasson said the added advantage of ensuring a multi-dimensional, integrated approach would enhance the international community’s ability to apply political leverage.
“This change would require some lead time and while it is being developed the international community should support MICSA in as comprehensive and predictable a manner as possible.”