UNHCR News Story: Hundreds more flee Central African Republic to escape fresh violence, a photo by UNHCR on Flickr.
Close to half of the Central African Republic population are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to a senior United Nations official who informed to the Security Council about the “greatly deteriorated” situation in the country following a spate of attacks on 5 December that had triggered further unrest. He urged those in positions of influence — including the 15-member organ — to do more towards ending the violence.
“There is a very real risk that the crisis could spread beyond the country’s borders and further destabilize the region,” warned Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as he briefed the Council on recent developments. Urging members to remind all parties to the conflict of their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law, he emphasized: “The violence and atrocities in the Central African Republic must stop,” the UN informs.
According to the latest information, he said, some 2.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, close to half the country’s population. One in every two inhabitants of the capital Bangui — an estimated 513,000 people — had sought refuge outside their homes, and 100,000 of them were in a makeshift camp at the airport. Killings continued daily and people remained divided along religious lines, with access to Bangui neighbourhoods controlled either by “anti-Christian” or “anti-Muslim” checkpoints manned by armed civilians. Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal had repatriated tens of thousands of their citizens, the vast majority of whom were Muslim.
“This is the first time in the history of the [ Central African Republic] that people, on account of their religion, have felt obliged to leave the country for fear of their lives,” Mr. Feltman said. The rapid deployment, by the African Union and France respectively, of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and the Sangaris operation had changed the security dynamics in Bangui. As MISCA continued to build up to its authorized strength of 6,000 personnel, its presence would be increased outside the capital, he said, adding that his Office was working with the African Union to organize a donors’ conference on 1 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He said the events of 5 December had dealt a “serious” blow to the Transitional Authorities, whose inability to curb widespread human rights abuses perpetrated against Christians by former Séléka rebels had contributed to the transformation of local “anti-Balaka” self-defence groups into a full-blown rebellion. Due to its predominantly Muslim composition, Séléka’s abuses against Christians had been quickly interpreted as a religious conflict pitting Muslims against Christians. On the other hand, the frustration of Muslim communities stemmed from years of marginalization by successive Governments since independence more than 50 years ago.
Pointing to a way forward, he said Heads of State of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had proposed an inclusive conference where national actors would be able to share their frustrations, identify challenges and agree on a way forward, especially on the conduct of elections and determining priorities for the post-transition period. While welcoming the adoption of a new electoral code and the swearing in of the seven-member National Electoral Authority, he cautioned nevertheless that conditions for holding elections remained elusive amid the systematic looting of local administrations and the destruction of civil national registries by ex-Séléka fighters.
Among the top priorities should be the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all armed groups, he stressed, calling for the funding and allocation of such an effort to be carried out in line with internationally accepted standards. The humanitarian situation had deteriorated at an alarming rate, with nearly half the population in need of assistance. Violence had forced one fifth of the population to flee their homes, a figure that had more than doubled since 5 December. More than 935,000 people were sleeping outside or in temporary spaces, and half the population in Bangui had sought refuge at one of the 55 sites for internally displaced persons.
Mr. Feltman recalled that the United Nations had activated a system-wide Level 3 Emergency Response on 11 December, allowing it to send its most experienced staff, release emergency funds and mobilize relief supplies. A senior humanitarian coordinator had been deployed, while the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator had allocated $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Yet, “needs continue to outpace the response”, he noted, underlining that without additional contributions, the World Food Programme (WFP) pipeline would be 90 per cent depleted in February.
He said the United Nations would do its best to prevent human rights abuses from reaching “unthinkable” levels, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and the country’s return to constitutional order. At Headquarters, the Deputy Secretary-General regularly chaired a Senior Action Group to consider how best to respond to the multifaceted crisis, marking the first case for the Secretary-General’s new “Rights Upfront” agenda, he noted. “It is our collective responsibility to act now, before it’s too late.”