The trip draws attention to the fragile situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). Communal tensions are increasing leading to violence and a deterioration in the humanitarian situation. More than 600,000 people have been displaced, and the number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. Humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers have also come under attack - this year alone 24 were killed.
“We need to make sure that the world fully appreciates the heroic contributions of peacekeepers protecting civilians, sometimes in extremely difficult circumstances, like the ones we face in the Central African Republic”
Secretary-General António Guterres spent United Nations Day with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). He paid tribute to the work of peacekeepers around the world who show tremendous courage in volatile environments. The Secretary-General laid a wreath at the UN Mission’s base for fallen peacekeepers. He then celebrated UN Day with staff.
The Secretary-General met with the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadéra and members of his Government. In remarks to press the Secretary-General said that he is making a visit of active solidarity. He called on the international community to engage in the country because there is an opportunity to build a new Central African Republic that is peaceful, secure and prosperous. The Secretary-General reiterated the need to strengthen MINUSCA so it can better protect the population.
The Secretary-General travelled to Bangassou in the southeast of the country where he laid a wreath to honour Moroccan and Cambodian soldiers killed earlier this year in the line of duty as UN forces tried to protect the population. He told the contingents how proud he was to be one of their colleagues and that their efforts were courageous as they attempted to keep the peace in areas where all too often there is no peace to keep.
The Secretary-General visited the compound of the Catholic church in Bangassou, which is now home to more than 1,200 Muslim residents of the area who had sought shelter from communal violence earlier this year. The Secretary-General listened as a 14-year old Muslim girl named Fatimah explained her community’s situation and concerns, as well as their wish for reconciliation. The Secretary-General expressed his personal solidarity with the people of Bangassou and urged them to work for reconciliation. He underscored that is would not be easy. The Secretary-General excoriated politicians who use religion to divide communities that often worship the same God, all be it with a different name. He urged religious leaders to live up to their responsibilities, saying religious leaders need to be apostles for peace. The Secretary-General met with local authorities and civil society leaders, encouraging them as well with a message of reconciliation.
The Secretary-General met with victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. In a tweet, he said he was deeply moved by this meeting, "All they seek is justice, and I am determined to fight impunity".
The Secretary-General again met with the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadéra and members of Government. The President and others briefed the Secretary-General on the national reconstruction and consolidation plan.
Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General saluted the government’s efforts to consolidate peace in the country and pledged the UN’s support to the extension of national institutions. He also pleaded with the international community not to abandon the Central African Republic. Everyone needs to be mobilized to help the country build the future its citizens deserve, he said.
Later in the morning, at the UN Mission headquarters, the Secretary-General met with Ambassadors from the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States.
He then had a separate meeting with local religious leaders and civil society leaders. He told them how much the Central African Republic needs a strong and vibrant civil society. He also reiterated his zero-tolerance for any sexual abuse or exploitation by UN personnel. The Secretary-General outlined his new approach, including a closer partnership with troop-contributing countries. He also introduced to them Jane Connors, the new Victims’ Rights Advocate, who is accompanying him.
The Secretary-General then met with representatives of political parties. He told them that the current situation in the country can only be solved with a political solution, which cannot be imposed from the outside.
The Secretary-General then received a briefing from the European Union on its training mission of the armed forces of the Central African Republic.
He also held a meeting with over 100 members of the UN military and police contingents at M’poko International Airport. In his discussion, the Secretary-General told them of his pride of being their colleague and for the work they are doing for the people of the Central African Republic. He also stressed that the UN’s conduct in the country had to be exemplary and that as we protect vulnerable populations, we also need to protect their human rights.
The Secretary-General addressed the National Assembly of the Central African Republic on today morning. He told the lawmakers that he wanted to pay his respects to the resilience and courage of the people of the Central African Republic as they surmount the many challenges facing their country.
He strongly defended the role of the UN peacekeeping force, recalling the ultimate sacrifice of peacekeepers as they defended the civilian population. He said that while peacekeepers cannot be everywhere and cannot alone bring peace back to the Central African Republic, their actions can assist in creating a space to build peace through dialogue. He also underscored the impartiality of the peacekeepers who, he stressed, do not favour any ethnic or religious group.
The Secretary-General told members of the National Assembly that no one is better placed than the Central Africans themselves to rebuild their country. But he also once again called on the international community not to forget the Central African Republic and its people. He noted the historical generosity of the Central Africans who, over the years, had opened their borders to refugees from neighbouring countries. The Secretary-General pledged that the United Nations would continue to accompany and support the people of the Central African Republic.
He then travelled to the PK5 area, a traditionally Muslim part of Bangui that has been the site of violence against the community. He listened to the concerns of community leaders, including issues regarding safety and discrimination, as well as the lack of economic opportunities for young people. He also heard from local Christian leaders who spoke of reconciliation.
The Secretary-General thanked all the participants for their messages of inclusivity. He underscored his deep belief that so-called religious conflicts are often the result of political manipulation and not religious differences. He noted that for years, Christians and Muslims had coexisted peacefully in the Central African Republic.
The Secretary-General then held a roundtable with youth leaders. He heard their plea for peace and a greater UN presence. The Secretary-General encouraged them to get more involved in the life of their country. He also pledged that the UN Mission would be more open to discussion with youth groups.
The Secretary-General then held a separate session with a group of women leaders. They shared their view of the situation in the country and expressed their frustration at the lack of women’s participation in the political reconciliation process. The Secretary-General listened intently to the views around the table and agreed that no credible peace process could ever succeed without active and equal participation of women’s groups. He also pledged that the UN would help them increase their participation in mediation efforts.
On his way to Paris, during a stopover in Yaoundé, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with President Paul Biya of Cameroon. The Secretary-General plans to discuss a number of regional and national issues.
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> 24 October 2017 | Meet Gladys Nkeh, a UN police officer in the Central African Republic