A view of internally displaced children at the main mosque in Bangui during the Secretary-General’s visit.
It comes as no surprise that many in the international community are now admitting that the Central African Republic, which many believe now rests on the brink of genocide, has been failed entirely. For one, sectarian fighting and ethnic cleansing have not let up. Only 29% of requested funds have been provided for relief, and even though the United Nations approved a peacekeeping mission that will comprise 10,000 troops, 1,800 police and 20 corrections officers, those troops will not arrive in the landlocked African country until September. It’s not certain if the Central African Republic can wait that long.
“The situation continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate in terms of firstly, security for the ordinary people and secondly, their humanitarian plight as a result of the huge amount of displacement that has already taken place and continues to take place,” said John Ging, Operations Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week in New York. “The scale has grown in terms of the impact on the population.”
A disturbing trend of late due to the rampant violence in CAR is humanitarian workers are no longer seen as “off limits”. Three staff members from Doctors Without Borders were killed in April as well as a national staff member for the UNHCR this week.
While there is movement to help both the Christian and Muslim communities in the Central African Republic, the movement is slow-going despite early efforts from France and the African Union to donate money and soldiers to quell the violence. 150 European Union soldiers reached the Central African Republic in April and has taken over control of Bangui’s airport. That number will increase to 800 by next month.
With several raging conflicts on the African continent and around the world, the Central African Republic, while in dire need, is not the only conflict that needs resolving. The global community is stretched thin, to be sure. The United Nations’ World Food Programme has, however, ramped up a large-scale feeding operation and has provided food assistance to 200,000 people as of April numbers. Children, who are especially susceptible to violence, have received special nutrition from the WFP as food becomes more scarce not only in Bangui, but in pockets around the country.
“WFP is expanding its operations geographically inside the Central African Republic,” said WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs from Geneva. “In December, WFP reached four urban centres with food assistance, by March it expanded to 21 locations and in April to 35.
Reports out of the Central African Republic seem to bear the same story: the violence is not ceasing or even waning for the best interest of the country. In fact, an escalation of the violence is the norm. Ging reiterated this week in New York that blame is no longer being placed on the anti-balaka or Séléka, but now on entire communities – Christians against Muslims. Just this week, 15 people were killed in border towns. And even though less than 3000 people have been killed in the ethnic violence nearly 600,000 people have become internally displaced (see PDF). These numbers will be incredibly impacted as the rainy season begins.
While there are steps being taken by the global community to ease the violence and restore order in the Central African Republic even though there is an interim government, the urgency does not appear to be present. Today, however, in Bangui, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, spoke to reporters about the roll-out of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, to be known as MINUSCA, mission.
“We will spare no efforts…and I think we have the desire to work with all stakeholders in the international community, with our partners in the African Union, in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and major regional actors, all in a unity of vision,” said Hervé Ladsous, adding that the CAR Government must also play a key role in easing the crisis.
Photo: UN Photo/Evan Schneider