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Central African Republic

Publié le November 29, 2013
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)
Paris, November 26, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve just brought together the major non-governmental organizations to discuss with them the situation in the Central African Republic. As you know, that situation is tragic.

First of all at humanitarian level, because there are a large number of displaced people and refugees in the neighbouring countries: 1.5 million people, out of a total population of five million, are absolutely destitute. (…)

In terms of security, as you know, there are unfortunately a large number of acts of violence, looting and rape and child soldiers recruited. There are also clashes between armed gangs, including Séléka, a group supposedly made up of soldiers but in fact composed of bandits. This is leading to extremely serious reactions that are not in the Central African tradition. These acts of violence and clashes have often taken an ethnic and religious turn, although the religious authorities – Catholic, Protestant and Muslim – whom I met during my visit there a few weeks ago are, by contrast, committed to harmonious coexistence.

In terms of security, we’re looking at a situation of a failed state. (…)
At the same time, a political issue arises. The current authorities are transitional authorities, and normal political activity must be restored. Elections must be organized by February 2015 at the latest. The population register and the constitution must be restored.

Finally, you’ve got an economic development challenge. We’re talking about a potentially rich country. It has forests, diamonds and other resources, but it’s been plundered. It no longer functions and no longer takes in any revenue because the roads leading to Cameroon are cut off and unsafe. So its economic development will have to be a cause for concern.

The NGOs alerted us to this situation in August. In September, at the United Nations rostrum, the French President was the first to alert the international community to the situation in the Central African Republic. I then took up the baton. I’ve met with a keen reaction from the international community, the African countries and the African Union. A number of African forces are being deployed in the country.

There are African forces on the ground, but they’re few in number.
This afternoon I spoke on the telephone to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who confirmed to me that a resolution under Chapter VII will be presented next week. It will enable the African forces and French units, if necessary with European support, to act to ensure this situation of lawlessness – disastrous at humanitarian level – ends.

Specifically, this means there should be a vote at the United Nations next week, which will give UN authorization to the relevant authorities to intervene. Then, with methods to be defined, the African authorities, supported by French units, will be able to do their work.

At humanitarian level, it will be about providing help extremely quickly to the people in difficulty, particularly in Bossangoa, where 40,000 people have reportedly taken refuge around the cathedral, in appalling conditions. The Central African Prime Minister, with whom I had a meeting yesterday, told me that the refugees had only one square metre each to survive in, and sometimes to die in.

Work will have to be done on a political transition, supporting economic development. We want to do this with the Africans – they’re central to the solution – and with our European friends. I went there with the European commissioner in charge of humanitarian affairs, Ms Kristalina Giorgeva, and I’ll go back there soon.

The NGOs present this evening were kind enough to share our analysis and welcome the action by the international community and France. They’re ready to do their work to halt this humanitarian disaster.

These issues will be examined at the Elysée summit next week. A specific part of the programme will be devoted to the Central African Republic. The UN Secretary-General told me he’d like to take part, which will give the meeting special clout. The Central African Republic will be an increasingly central news story in the coming weeks. It’s about stopping the disaster in the Central African Republic and rebuilding a country that currently no longer exists. Thank you./.

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