Central African Republic
Ladies and gentlemen, I had a meeting this afternoon with the Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr Nzapalainga, and the president of the Muslim community in the Central African Republic, Imam Kobine Lamaya.
We’d already met on 10 December, but it was in Bangui, during a very brief visit I paid. It was also a particularly dark day, because two French soldiers had just died. I remember our meeting at the airport, where we’d already sent a message of peace and of support for the Central African people, who have been suffering too long.
We’re meeting today – it’s 23 January, the day of the new Central African President’s investiture. It’s also a sign of hope. Hope that reconciliation can begin, that security can gradually be restored and that the people will be protected from the tragedy of hunger or, even worse, brutalities.
It was to join this fight for human dignity that France decided on 5 December to get involved in the Central African Republic, in the framework of a Security Council mandate and with those African forces that were available at the time.
I must say that if France hadn’t come to the Central African Republic at that moment, hundreds if not thousands more Central Africans would have been killed, so many women raped and so many children dragged into the clashes.
For all that, there’s still a lot to do, because not a day goes by without it being discovered, because of the weapons that are circulating, that men and women are being killed quite simply because they’re Christians or Muslims, or because they’re assumed to have a preference for one side or another.
That’s why the religious authorities wanted not only to issue an appeal – and it’s been delivered several times – but to go on a tour of Europe to persuade countries that have so far been unaware of the exact nature and the gravity of the situation in the Central African Republic to play an active role. It’s also – and I want to thank them for it – thanks to those authorities that Europe was able to take this very important decision, not only to send soldiers to contribute to the security of a number of places but to embark on humanitarian aid to the tune of €365 million.
The challenge today is twofold. The African forces’ presence alongside Operation Sangaris – 1,600 troops for France, 5,000 already for the Africans – should be further strengthened. The MISCA [AFISM-CAR] contingents must also be better provided for, European assistance secured and the operation ultimately transformed into a peacekeeping force.
That’s the goal. To that end, everyone’s support will be necessary – as I’ve said, from the Africans themselves, who must guarantee the Central African Republic’s security, and from France, which is ready for it, because it’s already there and was first. It’s a matter of honour and pride but also a responsibility for France to continue the operation under way, which is bringing results, and for the Central Africans themselves to rebuild a state, a government. That’s what now awaits the Central African Republic’s President and the government she’ll be forming.
Finally, there are the spiritual authorities, who can appeal for harmony, reconciliation and understanding. Those authorities can also contribute to the proper provision of humanitarian aid – we’ve talked about this – for schools and hospitals, and for us those religious authorities are both symbolic and lend exceptional support. That’s why I was keen to meet the Archbishop and the Imam of Bangui in person.
Ladies and gentlemen, and I’m also addressing the religious authorities in the Central African Republic, I want once again to tell you that it was good for the Imam to say the Protestants are also here in spirit in Paris, confirm to them France’s full support and express to them our full confidence in what can be done for reconciliation in the Central African Republic.
I think those who didn’t know why we were in the Central African Republic now have the reasons. Thank you./.