Humanitarian and Human Rights Briefing on the Central African Republic
This afternoon at the request of Luxembourg, the Council will be briefed on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Central African Republic (CAR) by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, and John Ging, Operations Director at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Zerrougui, Dieng and a representative of Bangura’s office made a joint visit to CAR from 17-21 December 2013, while Ging conducted a separate five day mission earlier this month. Following the briefing, Council members will discuss the CAR in consultations.
On 20 January, there were a number of significant CAR-related developments in Bangui, Brussels and Geneva. The National Transitional Council elected Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, as the new interim President of the CAR. Her election was welcomed by the Secretary-General and the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR (BINUCA). In Brussels, EU foreign ministers approved a peacekeeping force expected to number up to 1,000 troops, while at a conference organised by OCHA and the European Commission, donors pledged nearly $500 million in international assistance. In Geneva, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special session on the human rights situation in the CAR.
According to the findings of a 12-24 December 2013 human rights investigative mission to the CAR, which were conveyed to the HRC yesterday by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, more than 1,000 people were killed during the sectarian violence of 5-6 December. Large-scale human rights violations have been perpetrated by both ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka forces, including sexual and gender-based violence, disappearances and torture. According to a recent estimate by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there may be as many as 6,000 child soldiers currently involved in the conflict. Children have also been killed, mutiliated and subjected to sexual violence. Council members are likely to be keen to receive more information on violations against children, sexual and gender-based violence, and the risk of genocide in the CAR from Zerrougui, Bangura and Dieng respectively. Following the 17-21 December visit, there was agreement on the need to strengthen the capacity and resources of BINUCA and the UN system to ensure an adequate response to the crisis. Dieng on 17 January warned of the risk of genocide in the CAR, suggesting it had the same seeds for a genocide seen in Bosnia and Rwanda. Council members may be interested in the briefers’ views on what the UN system needs in order to prevent further atrocities.
Council members are also likely to be interested in hearing Ging’s analysis, based on his recent visit to the CAR, of the logistical and security challenges facing humanitarian actors, particularly in relation to the operation of the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA) and the forces deployed by France under Operation Sangaris. The humanitarian situation in the CAR is severe. Approximately 935,000 people have been displaced by the conflict. According to OCHA, more than half the country’s population are in need of humanitarian assistance, including at least 1.3 million people lacking food. Prior to yesterday’s donor conference in Brussels, UN agencies and humanitarian partners had requested $247 million in funding to cover basic needs in the CAR for 2014. Council members may also be interested in hearing Ging’s assessment of whether these recent donor commitments are likely to be sufficient for financing urgent humanitarian operations and addressing the growing humanitarian crisis in the CAR.
Today’s briefing and consultations on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the CAR comes at a useful time for the Council, as it is expected to begin negotiations on a draft resolution renewing BINUCA’s mandate this week, with adoption scheduled for 28 January. Obtaining relevant information on the human rights and humanitarian situation may be of particular interest to members who would like to see strong protection language included in the draft resolution.
In addition, given that coordinating an effective division of labour among UN agencies, BINUCA, MISCA and EU forces remains one of the many challenges faced by the Council and the international community in the CAR, members may be looking for a better understanding of the challenges and priorities faced by UN actors involved in protection work in the CAR in the context of BINUCA’s upcoming mandate renewal.