Central African Republic
Q. – You were in the CAR. You attended Catherine Samba-Panza’s investiture. What hope can she embody when we know massacres are still going on?
THE MINISTER – As she herself says, she’s in her honeymoon period.
Q. – And it risks not lasting very long!
THE MINISTER – It’s often complicated, in fact. The situation in the CAR is very tough. First, on the security front – because there are brutal acts of violence –, and on the humanitarian front too.
Q. – Precisely, from the security point of view, we’ve got 1,600 French soldiers over there, no more. Do we need to increase the military forces over there?
THE MINISTER – There are 1,600 French and 4,000 Africans – soon there will be 6,000. We got the Europeans – and it’s a very good thing – to send around 500 troops. The decision in principle was taken on Monday.
Ultimately there will probably need to be more troops. And this is why we’re saying that the current operation must become a peacekeeping operation under United Nations control; this will allow more troops to be deployed. The core will be African. The Africans are doing a very good job, but we’ve got to go a bit further. I’m a practical person. Also, the cost of a UN peacekeeping operation is covered by that organization, while the Africans don’t have many financial resources.
Q. – What will the timetable be?
THE MINISTER – If we decide in the coming weeks on a UN-supervised peacekeeping operation, after 6,000 Africans are deployed, new forces could then be on the ground around May or June. That takes time.
Between now and then, three things need to be done: security – on the whole, Bangui is better protected, but the rest of the country isn’t; the humanitarian aspect – you’ve got to realize that there are only seven surgeons for 4.5 million people. Two million people are in a difficult humanitarian situation. Elections also have to be prepared because Ms Samba is the transitional President. So there will have to be a vote.
The deadline is set for February 2015, but everything has to be rebuilt because there’s no longer a public records office. It’s a considerable amount of work.
I’d like to stress that she’s really a remarkable woman; moreover, the fact she’s a woman is a major strength. I saw her when I arrived at the airport – women are a huge support. She’s a reflective, intelligent woman, but her task is one of the toughest in the world./.