U.S. Concerned About Central African Republic Violence

Published on 20 December 2013

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U.S. Ambassador To The U.N. Samantha Power
U.S. Ambassador To The U.N. Samantha Power

The United States is deeply concerned about the sectarian violence that has swept across the Central African Republic (CAR), and particularly the nature of the attacks on civilians, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield says.

“We are working closely with the United Nations Security Council, the French, other EU countries, and our African partners to support efforts to end the violence and restore security, rule of law and democratic governance to the CAR,” Thomas-Greenfield said in prepared testimony December 17 before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

The African Affairs Subcommittee held the hearing to determine what more the United States can do to support multilateral efforts to ensure African Union troops have the capacity necessary to improve security and end the violence, Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, said. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, echoed those comments and noted the importance of U.S. involvement to prevent the violence from spilling over into the region and the effects it would have for a long time to come.

The violence stems from the Seleka rebellion, which began in December 2012 and has taken an “alarming turn for the worse,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

After 10 months of abuses by the largely Muslim Seleka fighters, Christian self-defense militias formed and began to attack both Seleka fighters and Muslim communities, creating a dangerous dynamic of reprisals where once there had been ethnic and religious tolerance, Thomas-Greenfield said.

Thomas-Greenfield said the United States has condemned Seleka’s seizure of power and its campaign of rape, pillage and killings. An exact total of those killed and displaced as a result of what has become a sectarian conflict between Muslim and Christian factions is not fully known, according to the United Nations.

“We have publicly and privately called on CAR transitional authorities to end the violence and have warned them that those responsible for fueling and engaging in violence and human rights violations would be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

She said that U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power gave that message directly to Transitional President Michel Djotodia in a December 7 telephone call.

Power and Thomas-Greenfield are leading a U.S. delegation to Bangui, the Central African Republic; Abuja, Nigeria; and N’Djamena, Chad. The delegation is meeting with transitional government officials, as well as U.N., French and other officials, to assess and support recent efforts of the African Union and French forces to protect civilians, stabilize the country and restore humanitarian access, according to the State Department.

“To take a plane in here at this stage is very important and very much a sign of the priority the president attaches to events on the ground and, ultimately, stabilization in the Central African Republic,” Power told reporters traveling with the U.S. delegation. Power said she has spoken twice with Djotodia to impress upon him President Obama’s “great interest in the events in the Central African Republic.”

“People in the Central African Republic are in profound danger, and we have profound responsibility which we must meet to help them move away from the abyss,” Power told journalists in New York before departing for Bangui.

To strengthen efforts to hold the responsible parties accountable, Thomas-Greenfield said, the United States has supported the U.N. Security Council’s establishment of an arms embargo, a sanctions committee and a panel of experts, and authorization of a Commission of Inquiry and an increase in the human rights monitoring capacity of the U.N. Political Office in CAR, and co-sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution creating an independent expert position for the Central African Republic.

To immediately stem the sectarian violence, the United States has supported action by the U.N. Security Council for a one-year mandate for the African Union–led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and for an expanded French troop presence in support of MISCA, Thomas-Greenfield testified.

This combination of forces on the ground should provide the most immediate mechanism for ending the violence, she noted.

“In addition, we believed MISCA’s more robust stabilization mandate is what is needed now to confront and disarm the armed groups,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

The White House announced December 19 that the United States is providing up to $101 million in support for restoring security in the Central African Republic. That figure includes support for security operations and humanitarian support. In the last fiscal year, which ended September 30, the United States provided $24 million in humanitarian assistance to CAR.

USAID Assistant Administrator Earl Gast said December 17 that his agency “is expanding the provision of humanitarian assistance to respond to the most urgent health, nutrition, protection, food security, and logistical needs in areas affected by instability.” USAID is also participating in the EU-hosted “Friends of CAR” working group, which serves as a platform for interaction and coordination among donors who are funding, or considering funding, activities in the country.

On December 19, CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye announced that his country would move its presidential election up to 2014. It had been set for 2015.



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Posted 2013-12-20 11:10:00