Central African Republic
EUFOR RCA/UN ACTION
M. AYRAULT – (…) Many countries are contributing to the operations under way through essential logistical support: this is the case with the United States and our European partners. The European Union is also providing €50 million of financial support.
Beyond this support, the European Union decided to commit troops on the ground directly by establishing the EUFOR RCA operation on 10 February, with unanimous support. It took this decision more quickly than it has ever done in comparable circumstances. A first echelon should arrive on the ground in the next few days. This European force will be tasked chiefly with ensuring the security of Bangui airport and certain districts, which will allow MISCA [AFISM-CAR] and Sangaris to go on being deployed in the provinces, where their intervention is eagerly awaited. To date, 10 or so European partners have expressed their intention to contribute to it. The force generation process is continuing. As Chancellor Merkel announced at the Franco-German Council of Ministers last week, Germany too is due to take part in this effort through logistical resources.
It is up to the United Nations to do more, and faster: this wish was expressed by the Secretary-General himself. In particular, the UN must be able to coordinate humanitarian aid, prepare the disarmament and reintegration of fighters, and help the Central African government move towards elections. The United Nations has an obvious role to play in fighting impunity, thanks to the deployment of an international commission of inquiry, whose work will complement that of the International Criminal Court. Finally, the preparation of a peacekeeping operation, in partnership with the African Union, must be speeded up – I’ll come back to this in a moment.
(…) Our efforts have started to bear fruit. The looming widespread unrest has been avoided. (…) In Bangui itself, insecurity is now confined to only a few districts. Most of the ex-Séléka fighters have been disarmed and kept under MISCA’s control, and many of them have gone back to the north of the country. In the capital, the threat comes mainly from the anti-balakas, against whom we’re taking very vigorous action.
In the western half of the country, inter-community clashes are still occurring. In close contact with MISCA, our forces are doing the utmost to protect Christians and Muslims with complete impartiality. In the east, we need to be careful that the regrouping of ex-Séléka fighters doesn’t lead to a de facto split between that region and the rest of the country.
MUSLIM EXODUS/HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The mass departure of Muslims is a matter of great concern in a country where religions have long lived in harmony. The neighbouring countries, starting with Chad and Cameroon, are demonstrating a great deal of solidarity by taking in a significant number of refugees.
They must be able to rely on the international community’s support; they can fully count on that of France.
As far as the humanitarian aspect is concerned, the situation is indeed still very critical, with 250,000 refugees and 825,000 displaced people, including 400,000 in the capital. One in two inhabitants needs emergency medical treatment and one in five needs food aid. The departure of many Muslims, who powered trade, is making the economy even more fragile. The United Nations agencies over there are doing their best to cope. The World Food Programme has set up an airlift, allowing the displaced people to be given fresh supplies until MISCA, supported by Sangaris, makes the vital road link between Bangui and Cameroon safe. Many NGOs – which until now had been unable to act – are very active, including Médecins du Monde and Médecins Sans Frontières, which run the only hospital still open in Bangui.
TRANSITION/PAYMENT OF CIVIL SERVANTS/ELECTIONS
On the political front, the new transitional president, Catherine Samba-Panza, the first woman to lead a country in French-speaking Africa, has been able to create momentum, and before you I want to renew to her France’s support. This momentum now has to be converted into action in people’s everyday lives, and payment of civil servants’ salaries has to resume so that the basic institutions begin to function again. The region’s countries have promised their help. It’s important for the international financial institutions, too, to deliver results.
France is working towards this.
(…) I’ve just candidly described the situation in the Central African Republic. Yes, it has to be said, the difficulties are considerable. No, France isn’t underestimating them and isn’t seeking to play them down. Nevertheless, initial progress is real and prospects are emerging in every field. Elections are scheduled to be organized between now and February 2015 and milestones have been passed: the electoral code has been adopted and the electoral authority is already in place. The international community urgently needs to provide the necessary resources with due regard for this timeframe.
For its development, the Central African Republic, which has long been one of aid’s orphans, needs international assistance. In Brussels on 20 January, nearly $500 million was promised to tackle the most pressing humanitarian challenges and embark now on the country’s economic and social reconstruction. France has pledged €35 million for 2014. Our technical assistance is starting up again, and we’re working to speed up the process of getting the state up and running again. This is necessary to enable the main donors – the IMF, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the EU – to return.
UN PEACEKEEPING OPERATION
As for security, only a Blue Helmet peacekeeping operation seems to us capable of addressing the Central African Republic’s needs. MISCA is doing essential work which must be strengthened in the long term.
The creation of a peacekeeping operation will enable us, at military level, to guarantee the necessary reinforcements and, at civilian level, to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate fighters, as well as organize elections. In the very next few days, the UN Secretary-General will present a report to this effect; we’d like the Security Council to examine it at the beginning of March, so that the operation can be deployed as quickly as possible.
Until then, Sangaris will play a bridging role, alongside MISCA and the EUFOR RCA operation. In order to respond to the situation and the UN Secretary-General’s appeal, the French President decided, following the [Select] Defence Council meeting of 14 February, to increase its troop numbers to 2,000. Our additional effort includes the early deployment of combat forces and French gendarmes, who will then take part in the European operation. Subsequently, France will reduce its effort and maintain a presence in support of the UN operation, but its role isn’t to replace the international forces, whose responsibility is to make the Central African Republic secure in the long term. (…)
M. LE DRIAN – (…) So in two and a half months there’s been a lot of progress, if not a new scenario, in the Central African Republic. And contrary to what’s been said, we’re not alone in this: in the different interventions by the various players, the Central African forces have often been written off. They’re ignored, even though they now have 6,000 troops. It was said in a previous debate that they’d never be sufficiently numerous and that the figure announced by the United Nations wouldn’t be achieved. But it has been achieved and those forces have been organized. Several MISCA soldiers have been killed, and we must pay tribute to them. To date, 19 soldiers of different nationalities have died for the Central African Republic. The African forces are there, they’re proud to be there and they’re accomplishing their missions. Admittedly, some are not as effective as as the French forces, but many are robust and of high calibre. It must be said that they’re fulfilling their missions in this theatre, because I believe it’s been slightly forgotten. When I hear people say we’re alone in the Central African Republic, when there are 6,000 African soldiers on the ground, I’m not sure the African Union appreciates those kinds of remarks. That’s why I was keen to pay tribute to them.
Since questions have been asked on this point, I’d like to give a few specific details about the EUFOR mission decided on by the European Union. It’s only the fourth European military intervention in history since the decision to implement a Common Security and Defence Policy, which was decided on swiftly and unanimously. The EUFOR command has been in place since last week: I visited it in Athens on Friday. It will be possible to deploy the European force some time in March.
Several countries have already announced their contributions. A force generation conference was held today and has already made some progress possible. A new conference will be held in a few days’ time.
The EU is stepping up to the plate – a little belatedly, it’s true, but the decision was swift and the implementation will be equally so: it’ll be carried out by a French general, General Pontiès. I’m convinced that the EU will be in a position to help us act tomorrow. (…)
As far as the Defence Minister is concerned, (…) the major concern, in my view – those who have been there must have realized this – is the urgent need for local security.
That’s why we took the decision to commit gendarmerie forces. Indeed, the military operation is gradually being transformed into a gendarmerie operation. So the French forces deployed will include gendarmes, as will the European force, incidentally. (…)./.