LNC with The Associated Press
NEW YORK – The president of Central Africa Republic called Thursday for additional training and equipment for the country’s armed forces so they can be deployed to deal with the conflict among armed groups that is leading to loss of lives “and massive destruction.”
President Faustin Touadera told the Security Council on Thursday that the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MINUSCA is acting alone now because the country doesn’t have enough trained troops “to participate in actions to establish peace, pacify the country, and protect civilians.”
He said he is “worried” about the pace of training by a European Union mission that “takes a long time,” and he urged the Security Council to assist in finding faster training as well from individual countries or through multilateral co-operation.
“I’m also concerned about Central African trained forces being provided with military and logistical resources or equipment,” Touadera said. “Because we don’t have this equipment we can’t get boots on the ground, and I’m talking about in regions of the country where there are threats to peace and security against civilians and our means are lacking.”
He said about 8,000 troops can’t deploy because they don’t have the needed training and resources.
Centrafrican Republic exploded into violence in late 2013 as anger mounted against a Muslim rebel leader who seized power by force. The backlash against Muslim civilians forced most of Bangui’s Muslims to flee north or to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.
The country held mostly peaceful democratic elections in March 2016 that brought Touadara into the presidency. However, armed militias persist not only in the largely ungoverned north but also in pockets of the capital Bangui, threatening to undermine recent progress.
On a positive note, Touadera said all 14 armed groups have now joined the President’s Consultative Committee and will be represented at its next meeting on March 23. The committee’s focus is on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, which he said are key to the goals of rebuilding peace and economic recovery.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the past 12 months have been significant but have also “sadly shown progress is fragile.”
“The hope of March 2016 risks being replaced by the violence, displacement, humanitarian urgency, and the fear of the past,” he said. “Having come so far, the risk of reversal, the risk of deterioration, a return to the chaos of the past, is now a painful reality that we must confront.”
Rycroft urged the government, with support from MINUSCA, to reach agreement with the armed groups to stop attacking civilians and disarm and demobilize. He said it’s also essential that the country’s armed forces provide security and stability in the longer term which will require reforms that Britain will support. And he said CAR must also ensure accountability for those who suffered.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the council that Touadera’s election and reforms over the past year have seen “remarkable progress” but the issue of armed groups “cannot be resolved militarily alone” or through the disarmament progress.
“In order to be successful it’s important for all groups to work without reservation to respond to all the various desires of the population first and foremost and the armed groups as well,” he said.
Ladsous said “if the situation continues to evolve positively as it has over the last 12 months then MINUSCA won’t need to stay in CAR forever.”
“The path before (CAR) is long and there will be difficulties, but I’m convinced that the commitment of CAR, with the ongoing assistance of the international community … will turn the page on the pain of its history and move toward a promising future,” Ladsous said.