US concerned with the unrest in CAR
With ongoing conflict and displacement raising concern for the protection of civilian populations in the Central African Republic (CAR) , the United States of America today addressed the crisis in the African country by outlining efforts to halt human rights violations and humanitarian crisis.
In his testimony in Washington DC, Principal Deputy Assistant Robert P. Jackson said the United States of America is deeply concerned about the ongoing insecurity, humanitarian crisis and human rights violations across the Central African Republic (C.A.R.).
Mr. Jackson stated that the US government is working closely with its European allies, the United Nations, and the African Union to press for stability, the respect of human rights and the restoration of democratic governance in the African country.
US Efforts to end insurgency in CAR
Highlighting the surge of insurgency perpetrated by Seleka forces which has displaced hundreds of thousand of civilians, the United States along with others in the international community, have publicly condemned Seleka’s overthrow of the government from the very beginning.
To address the violence, the United States Government suspended direct assistance to the C.A.R. central government, but allowed support for programs operated by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The programs provide for humanitarian aid throughout accessible areas in C.A.R., and combat trafficking in persons, and civilian protection in support of the counter-Lord’s Resistance Army campaign.
The Seleka rebel group is notorious for including murders, rapes, robberies, looting and burning of villages. The group’s abuses also led to the surge of Christian self-defense groups that have sought to kill both Seleka fighters and C.A.R. Muslims, creating a dangerous dynamic of inter-religious hatred and tension that risks spiraling out of control.
On humanitarian crisis
According to Mr. Jackson, the crisis in the Central African Republic has internally displaced nearly 400,000 people and forced approximately 68,000 new refugees into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Chad.
The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have little to no access to clean water, schools, or health services.
In addition, food security is also hampered by the violence as many farmers missed the planting season due to the violence.
Mr. Jackson noted that the U.S. Government partners continue to try to reach these populations with life-saving assistance, but are constrained by lawlessness and banditry.
In Fiscal Year 2013, Mr. Jackson cited the U.S. Government provided more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance in C.A.R. to support programs providing food and non-food items, health services, access to clean water, and more.
In addition, The UN Humanitarian Air Service, supported by USAID and the State Department, continues to provide access to affected populations that are otherwise inaccessible.
On September 25, the State Department announced an additional $6.2 million contribution to respond to the needs of new refugees in neighboring countries.
Working with partners to address the crisis in CAR
The US continues to consult and coordinate with its regional and international partners through the International Contact Group (ICG) for C.A.R. On November 8, as part of its continued commitment to working with the international community to find an immediate solution aimed at ending the violence and creating stability in the C.A.R.
Mr. Jackson notes that the African Union chaired the third Contact Group meeting in Bangui, with more than 40 countries represented, including many regional states and a handful of non-African countries.
He said the Contact Group released the Bangui Declaration, which calls for the international community to strengthen the AU-led MISCA military mission and support the C.A.R. political transition roadmap.
In addition, the United States alsp led the discussion calling for President Djotodia to reverse his plan to integrate 3,500 former Seleka rebels into the C.A.R. security forces and another 1,500 additional Seleka rebels to be recruited as law enforcement officers and park rangers.
Seleka group in the mission to stir violence
In December 2012 when Seleka forces launched a violent spree from the northeast region of the country toward the capital city of Bangui. On March 24, the rebel group took over the capital of Bangui by force.
President Bozize fled the country, and Djotodia declared himself president, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the national assembly.
Reports of rape perpetrated by Seleka groups made headlines too. Reports say ten women per day came to NGO Bangui offices from April to August to report being raped; since September, five women per day report being raped. With no one to pinpoint the rapists and brought to trial, the violence also continues with total impunity.
Mr. Jackson said that fear and tension still pervades the capital as Bangui’s streets at night. In addition, Mr. Djotodia’s announcement in September that he had dissolved the Seleka force was nothing more than a smoke screen as Seleka fighters continue to carry weapons and deny the use of arms to “legitimate” law enforcement authorities whose efforts are needed to end the lawlessness in the C.A.R.
Seleka rebels gain momentum in CAR
In December 2012, due to concerns about the security of US personnel, the US State Department temporarily suspended its operations in the Central African Republic.
Reports says Seleka rebels have taken several key towns and cities, including the diamond centre of Bria.
US States Department ordered its diplomatic team to evacuate as rebels continue to advance and violence may escalate.
U.S. ambassador and its diplomatic staff have reportedly flown out of Bangui and headed to Kenya.
US Ambassador Wohlers and his diplomatic team left Bangui along with several private U.S. citizens.
The United States has encouraged all parties in the Central African Republic to participate in the dialogue to be held under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) to develop a comprehensive agreement that will offer a new vision of peace and security for the country.
Earlier in December 2012, towns were attacked by the ‘Seleka’ coalition of armed groups and CAR lost the town of Kaga Bandoro to northern rebels.
The Seleka rebel coalition has reportedly gained momentum in its advances and attacks.
In addition, the UN has reported that another extremist group called Lord’s Resistance Army has also increased its attack in central Africa, leading to the displacement of thousands of people.
Attacks have taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 13 attacks in the DRC were recorded which resulted in two killings and 13 abductions, and the displacement of 1,230 people mostly from the Dungu territory in the country’s north-east.
In CAR, LRA attacks have resumed after a lull since April 2011 with 11 attacks recorded this year.
In addition, the LRA has also conducted attacks in South Sudan, which last year led to 7,382 people fleeing their homes.
LRA-related violence is seriously hampering humanitarian work in the province. According to UN data some 2,000 people have been killed and 2,500 abducted, including 892 children, in attacks against civilians in villages and towns across the Orientale province since December 2007.
The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels.