- A senior United Nations official has warned the Security Council that the situation in the north-eastern corner of the Central African Republic (CAR) remains precarious after recent attacks by armed rebels and bandits against civilians, also adding that aid operations are suffering because of the insecurity.
Victor da Silva Angelo, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission to the CAR and Chad (known as MINURCAT), told Council members during an open meeting on the mission that “the gravity of the situation” in the Vakaga region now “goes beyond our capacity to respond to all the security needs.”
Armed men attacked the region’s biggest town, Birao, which lies close to the border with Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan, on two occasions last month. At least 27 people were killed in the clashes, while nearly 4,000 others were forced to flee into surrounding bushland and more than 600 homes were burned.
Large segments of the town’s population have not yet returned to Birao, Mr Angelo reported, although MINURCAT forces are stationed in the area and are working with local authorities to try to strengthen security.
He stressed that the insecurity is hurting humanitarian operations, leaving Vakaga “in a precarious situation… The region requires the sustained attention of the Government of the CAR and the international community. This includes the areas of Sam Oundja and Sikikede, which for the moment are effectively without a security presence. They are home to refugees and displaced populations.”
He further reported that the arrival of the annual rainy season is also hampering humanitarian efforts as it renders most roads impassable and delays the arrival of aid to those in need.
Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, voiced similar concerns when she visited Birao on Sunday as part of her week-long visit to the CAR.
Ms Bragg – who is also Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN – travelled to the north-western Central African town of Kabo, where she met with internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in nearby bushland and also held talks with local authorities and representatives of UN agencies which are operating in the area.
“I was very moved by what I was told by the people who fled into the bush because they feared for their safety,” she said. “The conditions are totally deplorable: no shelter, little food, no water, no medical services, [and] parents are worried about children who are hungry and sick.
“We, the humanitarian community, are trying to bring aid to these people but it’s not easy while the community has to take ownership of its recovery. We also call on those in power to follow through on the peace agreement and to contribute to the peace and security of this area and to alleviate the level of fear of the populations so that they can return home and to normal life.”
In his address to the Council Mr Angelo also voiced concern at the slow deployment of MINURCAT forces – currently it has only 46 per cent of its mandated strength. The mission has only four out of a planned 18 military helicopters, which Mr. Angelo described as unacceptable.
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