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Central African Republic at ‘Risk of Being Forgotten’ ; President Touadera Appeals to UN for Help

Thousands have already died and a fifth of Central Africans have fled a conflict that broke out in 2013

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Central African Republic
Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera addressing the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 (VOA)

Geneva, September 20, 2017 : The president of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera, on Tuesday pleaded with the world to not forget his country and urged the U.N. to bolster its peace-keeping force amid growing violence that threatens to spin the country out of control.

Thousands have died and a fifth of Central African Republic nationals have fled a conflict that broke out after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) militias.

Fighting on the increase

Although unrest has since subsided, fighting has spiked this year and the United Nations warned this month that ethnic fighting could descend again into a much larger conflict if combatants are not disarmed.

“Central African Republic is at a critical moment in its history. We need the support of our friends; there are risks that we’ll be forgotten,” Touadera told a news conference ahead of a high-level meeting at the U.N. General Assembly.

Violence has escalated since former colonial power France last year ended its peacekeeping mission in the country, which once had as many as 2,000 soldiers. France has grown concerned by events, although officials say Paris is unlikely to return to Central Africa unless the capital were under threat.

The violence continues despite a peace deal signed between the government and rival factions in Rome last month and a 13,000-strong U.N. mission (MINUSCA), which will see its mandate renewed in November.

“The only force capable of ensuring security is the United Nations,” Touadera said. “The capacities of MINUSCA in terms of men and equipment have to be strengthened.”

Weak security forces

National security forces are too weak to tackle a multitude of armed groups and counter the spillover from conflicts in neighboring countries. Diplomats have also said that Touadera does not have the political strength to impose central government rule.

Touadera bemoaned the departure of France’s Operation Sangaris, but also the withdrawal of about 2,000 American and Uganda forces that were fighting the Ugandan rebel group The Lord’s Resistance Army and the withdrawal of MINUSCA’s Congolese battalion in the west.

“All of this has created a vacuum that the MINUSCA must fill,” he said. (VOA)

 

 

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Assam’s Citizen Register Raises Concern of U.N. Human Rights Expert

Assam, a state of 33 million people known for its lush tea estates, has for decades been racked by violence between indigenous tribes and settlers.

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Assam
A woman, whose name is left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, stands in a a line to collect forms to file appeals at a NRC Sewa Kendra (NSK) in Guwahati, Aug. 11, 2018. VOA

Three United Nations human rights experts expressed “deep concern” Thursday over a controversial citizens register in India’s Assam state, warning it could inflame ethnic tensions in an already fractious region.

A new draft Register of Citizens (NRC) in the northeastern state announced in July left off four million people, leaving them potentially stateless and facing an uncertain future.

Critics say it is the latest move by the right-wing party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bolster India’s Hindu majority at the expense of minorities. India will hold a national election next year.

assam
Bakrapara, Assam

The policy was introduced by the state government, which is controlled by the same BJP party in power nationally.

“We are… seriously concerned about the lack of clarity regarding what will happen to those left out of the finalized NRC,” said a joint statement from the UN special rapporteur on religious freedoms, Ahmed Shaheed, the rapporteur for minority rights, Fernand de Varennes and an expert on arbitrary detentions, Seong-Phil Hong.

“There is a risk that persons not part of the NRC could become stateless, be at risk of deportation, or be subject to large-scale migration detention,” they said.

The deadline to provide the necessary documents to be included on the register has been set for December 31.

Assam
Indian Muslim men shout slogans during a protest against tensions in India’s northeastern state of Assam, in New Delhi, India, Aug. 8, 2012.
Source:VOA

The current register includes only those who were able to prove they were in the state before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh’s war of independence into the state, and their descendants.

Also Read: Firefighters of India Battle Air Pollution In The Country’s Capital

Assam, a state of 33 million people known for its lush tea estates, has for decades been racked by violence between indigenous tribes and settlers.

“It is feared that this entire process is increasing inter-ethnic tensions in a region that has already experienced a tumultuous history of identity-based conflicts,” de Varennes said. (VOA)