Central African Republic - Reply given by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to a question in the Senate (Paris, October 17, 2013)
In his remarks to all of the heads of state and government at the UN General Assembly, President Hollande focused on the Central African Republic. On Sunday, I myself went to the Central African Republic, to Bangui. I was accompanied by the European commissioner responsible for humanitarian assistance.
The Central African Republic: the abbreviation is CAR, and the problem is that the A now means “abandonment.” Abandonment means that 10% of the population has now been displaced, that the rate of infant mortality is now higher than 10% and with the exception of Bangui, its capital, where security is more or less being ensured thanks to the French troops, the rest of the country is plagued by armed gangs.
No one was paying any attention to this issue, and France, because this is its mission, decided to raise the alarm about this country, which as its name suggests, is at the center of Africa. A common sense approach is required: we can’t claim to be paying attention to Africa, the continent of the future, if we don’t pay attention and lend support to its center. That’s exactly where the Central African Republic is.
In simple terms, the issue involves at least 3 sets of concerns.
First of all, with respect to security. In the provinces, the situation is frightening – you described it briefly – and for the first time in the history of the Central African Republic, there are religious conflicts between the Christians, who are in the majority, and the Muslims. On Sunday I met the leaders of the 3 main religions (Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim) in the CAR. They are completely opposed to these internal wars. They observe them, they condemn them and they deplore them.
In addition to this situation there’s the issue of the Seleka, which was dissolved by the head of state of the transition, M. Djotodia, who is not recognized by the international community. The Seleka soldiers, who are not getting paid - like the civil servants – and haven’t been for 4 months now, will return to civilian life or join the army. You can see the challenges this poses.
The four countries bordering the CAR have sent troops, which make up a force known as MISCA [AFISM-CAR]. There are currently 2,100 troops and this figure will increase to 3,500. France has 410 men on the ground and it’s considering increasing its contingent if it deems necessary. We have also secured a UN Security Council resolution, passed unanimously, which requires the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report on the situation within 30 days. There will be a second resolution which will provide this force and France with a mandate to take further action. Then there will be a third resolution in the spring in order to possibly consider establishing a so-called peacekeeping operation.
So the issue of security is being handled by the 4 countries acting on behalf of the Community of Central African States in collaboration with the African Union and France.
The second problem relates to the humanitarian situation. This is the situation that I described to you. It’s appalling. Europe, France, the international community with the donors’ conference should allow us to make progress on this issue.
And then there’s the political issue. The elections are due to take place no later than February 2015 but there’s no civil system. There needs to be a referendum before 2015 in order to accept the Constitution. A democratic system must be developed while the two main leaders, Mr. Djotodia and his prime minister, will not have the right to stand in these elections. They confirmed to me, before the UN representatives, that they would not do so.
Everything remains to be done. We discussed the situation with the president of South Africa, with Ms. Zuma, on behalf of the African Union, with the 4 countries bordering the CAR with which I’m in close contact. France will do its duty.
This is our position, without encroaching on the Africans: we must draw international attention to this conflict which could become very serious, and take action by mobilizing Europe, the international community, all of Africa and provide our African friends with the support they deserve.
I told the people of the Central African Republic, as I’m telling you, Senator, that France will not let the Central African Republic down.