UN: UN human rights chief says Central African Republic still 'gripped by fear'

New York, US (PANA) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Hussein said Friday
the human rights situation in6Central African Republic (CAR) is far better than it was
at the height of the conflict in late 2013 and early 2014, but is still a cause of anxiety for both
the country’s own inhabitants and the UN.

"At the end of a fairly short visit, I will not attempt to cover all aspects of the human rights
situation here, but I would like to focus on certain key areas where I believe there are
opportunities that should be seized and a need for urgent attention," Al Hussein said at a
press conference in the capital, Bangui.

According to a UN statement on the briefing, the human rights chief who arrived on
1 September for a four-day visit said the transitional government can claim a number of
baseline achievements, including local consultations launched in January, which involved
people from 16 prefectures, all eight districts of Bangui, and displaced people.

He said that In May, "this process was taken to another level by the Bangui Forum."

Al Hussein said: "This produced an important set of recommendations for CAR to follow as it
attempts to establish peace and security, justice and reconciliation – all of which are
essential if the country is to make a definitive and durable break with its turbulent,
poverty-stricken and at times exceptionally violent past."

He also welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court on refugees’ right to vote in upcoming elections, reversing a previous decision by authorities.

On the security front, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR
(MINUSCA), has amassed 9,200 troops and 1,580 police, in addition to a sizeable civilian
staff, he noted that, "this is the most significant effort by the UN in the history of this
country," and that although “far from ideal” the security situation has nonetheless

However, the human rights chief described the country as "still gripped with fear",
after a conflict that tore apart the existing social, cultural, political and economic

"Armed groups may not be killing people on the scale they have done in the past,
but they are still killing people from time to time, and they are still looting civilian
property and the country’s mineral resources, raiding and killing cattle, and preying
on civilian populations in other ways as well. Their impact on the economy has
been devastating," he said.

He also insisted that the various anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka forces, the Lord’s
Resistance Army (LRA), and the myriad other armed groups need to be shown
that their "lawless behaviour" will no longer be tolerated by the government and
the international forces.

Al Hussein said: "Some members of the government whom I have met this week
have been very frank about the persistent weaknesses of the State, especially in
the areas of justice and accountability."

During his first official trip to CAR, the UN human rights chief visited two of the
most problematic and worrying Bangui locations: the over-crowded and
surrounded PK 5 neighbourhood, a Muslim enclave – the last major Muslim
presence in the capital and the Mpoko camp for internally displaced people.

"Their future, and the future of PK 5 are inextricably linked, as many of the almost exclusively Christian displaced people in Mpoko come from the 3rd District which includes PK 5, and are afraid to go back to what is now a mostly Muslim enclave, whose inhabitants are equally afraid of them," he pointed out.

He said the Muslims in PK 5 were often too afraid to leave the enclave, and as a result, they have nowhere to bury their dead, and were deprived of schooling and job opportunities.

Meanwhile, Christians displaced to Mpoko also in most cases have nothing to return to, as most of their houses were burned to the ground, and their water supply is contaminated by the presence of dead bodies in wells.

"For the Christians to return home, and for the Muslims to accept them, there must be strenuous efforts to bring about reconciliation, and greatly increased security," Al Hussein noted.

He said he was alarmed to hear that the government has told the remaining inhabitants of Mpoko camp they must leave by 15 September.

"This would be a very dangerous step, as it could inflame the existing tensions among both groups, and would very likely end in violence," he warned.

On the upcoming elections on 18 October, Al Hussein said the conduct of those pools will be a crucial test of CAR’s progress towards peace and democracy.

Also, on the alleged case of sexual abuse or exploitation by a foreign soldier on Thursday, he reiterated that, "there is no excuse, no mitigating circumstances, nothing at all to justify the acts themselves or the failure to apply punishments that fit the crime.

"We simply have to do better, and UN member states must help us," he said.

The human rights chief explained that "over the years, many proposals have
been made to improve the way the issue that so often bedevils peacekeeping
operations is handled – not least ways to deter and prevent these appalling
acts against defenceless people we are supposed to be protecting but
unfortunately, UN member states had repeatedly refused to adopt proposed
measures to radically reduce the occurrence of sexual abuse by peacekeepers."

"I believe it is high time to revisit these ideas, and to do so as a matter of
urgency," he concluded.

CAR has been in the grip of a civil, political and humanitarian crisis with the
latest UN figures estimating the number of internally displaced people at nearly
one million.

It began with a coup in 2013 by a rebel coalition known as Seleka that ousted
President Francois Bozize.

Although the Seleka disbanded and a transitional government has been set
up, the country still faces major challenges from armed militias, and in addition,
the conflict has taken on a religious dimension with sectarian fighting taking
place between Christians and Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations,
Herve Ladsous, is scheduled to arrive Saturday in Bangui for a three-day visit.
-0-   PANA  AA/AR  4Sept2015

04 september 2015 18:59:03

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