UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Wednesday that the Central African Republic could become a failed state if swift action is not taken to restore security and end the suffering of millions in the chaotic aftermath of a rebel victory.
Valerie Amos told the Security Council that failure to act now could also see the crisis spread beyond the country’s borders “and throughout a region already facing enormous challenges.”
Landlocked Central African Republic has suffered numerous rebellions since independence from France in 1960. In late March, rebel groups known as Seleka joined forces to oust longtime president Francois Bozize, and a rebel fighter, Michel Djotodia, declared himself president.
Violence has since increased with reports of killings and widespread looting, rape, kidnapping and torture.
“Over the past months,” Amos said, “the humanitarian situation has deteriorated dramatically and has shifted from being a long-term crisis of poverty and chronic vulnerability to a complex emergency characterized by violence, acute needs and grave protection issues.”
The Security Council later released a statement expressing concern about the total breakdown of law and order and widespread human rights violations “notably by Seleka elements.” The council also warned the crisis poses a “serious threat” to the stability of the rest of the region.
Amos said the turmoil has affected all of Central African Republic’s 4.6 million people. Some 1.6 million are in dire need of food, protection, health care, water, shelter and other assistance, she said. More than 206,000 people are displaced within the country, many hiding in the bush. Nearly 60,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries, two-thirds of them in Congo, another country mired in upheaval.
The new U.N. envoy to the Central African Republic, retired Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye, said that with no proper chain of command, “the country runs the risk of descending into anarchy and chaos.”
Some police officers are reporting for duty but they can’t work because they aren’t equipped and don’t trust their Seleka counterparts, Gaye said.
He questioned plans to absorb 500 Seleka fighters into the police, and 500 into the gendarmerie, “without prior screening to determine their suitability.”
Gaye said all council members agreed that the country is “close to being a failed state and we should absolutely take action.”
He urged the Security Council to provide financial, logistical and technical support to a new 3,500-strong African peacekeeping mission that will be “the only legitimate force” in the country.
Council members welcomed the African Union decision to deploy troops, saying the establishment of the force “will represent a major contribution towards creating the conditions for a stable and democratic” country. Members said they looked forward to further discussions with the AU on swift establishment of the force, but gave no indication of what support they might authorize.
Gaye said the force will likely have to be increased because it isn’t large enough to hold ground and help restore security. But he said there will be more clarity on its deployment and Seleka’s reaction after an African Union assessment mission, due next week in the capital, Bangui.
Central African Republic’s U.N. Ambassador Charles-Armel Doubane appealed for international help to build “a modern state one of peace, security and stability where simply living is good.”