Central African Republic a "failed state" - French Foreign Minister


Central African Republic – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, 26 November 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve just brought together the major non-governmental organizations to discuss with them the situation in the Central African Republic. As you know, that situation is tragic.

First of all at humanitarian level, because there are a large number of displaced people and refugees in the neighbouring countries: 1.5 million people, out of a total population of five million, are absolutely destitute. (…)

In terms of security, as you know, there are unfortunately a large number of acts of violence, looting and rape and child soldiers recruited. There are also clashes between armed gangs, including Séléka, a group supposedly made up of soldiers but in fact composed of bandits. This is leading to extremely serious reactions that are not in the Central African tradition. These acts of violence and clashes have often taken an ethnic and religious turn, although the religious authorities – Catholic, Protestant and Muslim – whom I met during my visit there a few weeks ago are, by contrast, committed to harmonious coexistence.

In terms of security, we’re looking at a situation of a failed state. (…)
At the same time, a political issue arises. The current authorities are transitional authorities, and normal political activity must be restored. Elections must be organized by February 2015 at the latest. The population register and the constitution must be restored.

Finally, you’ve got an economic development challenge. We’re talking about a potentially rich country. It has forests, diamonds and other resources, but it’s been plundered. It no longer functions and no longer takes in any revenue because the roads leading to Cameroon are cut off and unsafe. So its economic development will have to be a cause for concern.

The NGOs alerted us to this situation in August. In September, at the United Nations rostrum, the French President was the first to alert the international community to the situation in the Central African Republic. I then took up the baton. I’ve met with a keen reaction from the international community, the African countries and the African Union. A number of African forces are being deployed in the country.

There are African forces on the ground, but they’re few in number. This afternoon I spoke on the telephone to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who confirmed to me that a resolution under Chapter VII will be presented next week. It will enable the African forces and French units, if necessary with European support, to act to ensure this situation of lawlessness – disastrous at humanitarian level – ends.

Specifically, this means there should be a vote at the United Nations next week, which will give UN authorization to the relevant authorities to intervene. Then, with methods to be defined, the African authorities, supported by French units, will be able to do their work.

At humanitarian level, it will be about providing help extremely quickly to the people in difficulty, particularly in Bossangoa, where 40,000 people have reportedly taken refuge around the cathedral, in appalling conditions. The Central African Prime Minister, with whom I had a meeting yesterday, told me that the refugees had only one square metre each to survive in, and sometimes to die in.

Work will have to be done on a political transition, supporting economic development. We want to do this with the Africans – they’re central to the solution – and with our European friends. I went there with the European commissioner in charge of humanitarian affairs, Ms Kristalina Giorgeva, and I’ll go back there soon.

The NGOs present this evening were kind enough to share our analysis and welcome the action by the international community and France. They’re ready to do their work to halt this humanitarian disaster.

These issues will be examined at the Elysée summit next week. A specific part of the programme will be devoted to the Central African Republic. The UN Secretary-General told me he’d like to take part, which will give the meeting special clout. The Central African Republic will be an increasingly central news story in the coming weeks. It’s about stopping the disaster in the Central African Republic and rebuilding a country that currently no longer exists. Thank you./.

Central African Republic – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to France Culture

Paris, 26 November 2013

Q. – Do you confirm the dispatch of troops to the Central African Republic?

MINISTER – Indeed, our presence is going to be reinforced. We’re waiting for a new UN resolution to be adopted for this. This should happen next week. The resolution should provide for a reinforcement of African troops, MISCA [AFISM-CAR], and a reinforcement of French troops. As soon as we get this authorization from the international community, in support of the African Union and the request by the Central African authorities themselves, we’ll begin reinforcing our presence. We’ll announce the details when the time comes.

Q. – What about this figure of 800 put forward by the Central African Prime Minister?

MINISTER – It makes sense. We’ve simply got to ensure that the action we’re due to carry out with our African friends’ support is carried out in four areas, not one.

Firstly, security. This is what you’ve just talked about.

Secondly, the humanitarian side of things, because the situation is appalling. You’ve got to realize that in some parts of the country there’s an infant mortality rate of 25%, and that there’s a total of seven surgeons out of five million inhabitants.

Thirdly, it’s going to be necessary to work on the political transition, since there’s no legally elected political authority.

Fourthly, we’ll then have to work on economic development, too.

These four aspects will be dealt with on the basis of the United Nations resolution next week.

Q. – You’ve just been talking about the humanitarian situation. France and the United States have spoken of a pre-genocide situation; this morning the organization Human Rights Watch is refusing to go that far.

MINISTER – Those are fair observations. This evening I’ll have a meeting about the CAR with all the NGOs, at the Quai d’Orsay.

Q. – Do you use the term genocide?

MINISTER – Religious conflicts are being exacerbated. This was confirmed to me again yesterday by the Central African Republic’s Prime Minister, with whom I had a meeting and who gave me several examples of a cycle that must absolutely be stopped.

The majority of the Séléka rebels are Muslims, while the majority of the Central African Republic’s population is Christian. So we must take great care to ensure that these conflicts between bandits and the population don’t turn into religious clashes.

I was in the Central African Republic a few weeks ago and I met the religious authorities themselves there – Catholic, Muslim and Protestant. They utterly reject this downward spiral. We must remain very vigilant. Let’s also be careful about the vocabulary, but in any case there’s an absolutely huge risk of implosion, with one new factor: the terrible situation which the Central African Republic has been experiencing for years risks affecting other countries. Today, if the vacuum and the implosion take hold, it will concern all the countries in the region: i.e. Chad, Sudan, the Congo and Cameroon. As its name indicates, the Central African Republic is in the centre of Africa. For it to implode could have terrible consequences.

That’s why the international community and the Africans are right to say it’s now necessary to intervene./.

Central African Republic – Article by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in The Independent¹

Paris, 25 November 2013

Central African Republic: Inaction is not an option. This failed state threatens to destabilize the whole region

A strong commitment from the international community is essential

In the course of its young history, the Central African Republic has known many dark hours. Now the country is facing its worst crisis.

In this failed state, entire swathes of land are given over to violence by armed gangs. Looting, the recruitment of child soldiers, burnt villages, rapes, summary executions – civilians are paying a high price. One in 10 people have already had to flee their homes. Infant mortality, already very high, is on the rise. The impact of instability on farming portends a possible food crisis. The healthcare system is dilapidated, with only seven surgeons for five million inhabitants. The climate of fear is coupled with the imminent threat of a humanitarian disaster.

In this potentially rich and terribly poor land, where a certain harmony traditionally reigned between different groups and religious persuasions, inter-ethnic and sectarian tensions are on the rise. The hostility between Christians and Muslims has already led to several deaths. A spiral of hatred, pitting inhabitants against one another, is looming on the horizon; it must be avoided at all costs.

This tragic situation threatens to destabilize the entire region. The Central African Republic does not bear this name by chance: it lies at the crossroads of the Great Lakes Region, the two Sudans, Cameroon, Chad and the Congo.

The entire continent stands to lose if it becomes a haven for armed criminal gangs or terrorist groups. Experience has taught us how dangerous it is to allow the development of “grey areas” sheltering traffickers and terrorist groups from other countries. The gravity of this situation, as President Hollande emphasized in his speech to the UN in September, is leading that body to speak of the threat of genocide.

The countries of central Africa and the African Union are mobilised. Neither indifference nor inaction are options.

What should be done?

First, obtain a commitment from the citizens of the country themselves. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring law and order and protecting civilians. They must fulfil their commitments: carry out the political transition and hold elections by early 2015, as provided in international agreements.

A strong commitment from the international community is essential. This involves immediate humanitarian support. The EU and the UN are working to that end. France alone is devoting millions of euros to relief efforts in the areas of food and health. These efforts should support the work of the NGOs notably the NGOs of the CAR, which are courageously working to help the people who are suffering the most.

But improving the humanitarian situation is obviously inseparable from the urgent need to restore security. All players – political as well as humanitarian – share this view. Africa is at the forefront and has started to intervene. First, the neighbouring countries and the entire region: in July, the African Union decided to deploy an African force which France supports. The international community must support the build-up of this force, in all areas, including by financing it.

France, together with the African Union, has made international mobilization in support of the CAR a priority. It’s about preventing a tragic situation and supporting the people of the CAR and their African partners in their efforts to help the CAR, while avoiding the mistakes of the past. We don’t want to pay for and suffer the price of doing nothing, which will be much higher tomorrow.

France will deliver. It will take action, in accordance with the law and together with its partners, notably its European partners, so that, a year after the start of the rebellion, the CAR can regain hope.

¹Source of English text: The Independent website. A similar article was published on 25th November 2013 in the French newspaper Le Figaro.

Published on 02/12/2013

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