The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) has visited a town that has been the scene of recent deadly clashes in a bid to explore how to shore up security in the region.
Victor Angelo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the mission, known as MINURCAT, went to the northern CAR town of Birao which was attacked by armed rebels on 6 and 21 June.
During the clashes, most inhabitants were driven out of the area, which was already hosting some 300 refugees from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan, along with 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Aid workers in the area were evacuated to the UN base following the second attack.
Mr. Angelo met with community leaders in Birao’s marketplace, urging them to resolve their differences in a non-violent manner.
“Various communities have been living here peacefully for many, many years,” he said. “There is no reason why they can’t continue to live side by side as they have always done.”
The Special Representative voiced hope that CAR authorities will return to the city to re-occupy Government offices emptied during the recent violence.
MINURCAT, which has 300 blue helmets in Birao where they protected relief workers in the midst of the clashes, said that it will continue to provide security for vulnerable people and relief operations in the region.
The UN and humanitarian organizations are concerned that the delivery of supplies by road will be hampered as the rainy season approaches, further isolating those in need.
The violence has kept farmers from tending to their fields and it is feared that the lack of harvests could exacerbate an already dire food situation, and MINURCAT and UN agencies are already planning to airlift supplies to Birao.
Earlier this week, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that the various challenges facing the peace process in the CAR can be overcome with the continued help of the world body and the country’s international partners.
He said that he was able to see the impact of years of instability and insecurity in the country during his recent visit to the CAR.
“But I also heard words that reflected the profound faith that the Government and people of the country had in the United Nations, which they saw as a reliable partner for the realization of their aspirations for a better future,” he stated.
“The problems are huge, but I am convinced the UN can help to move them to a solution.”
A national dialogue held in the capital Bangui last December, bringing together the Government, non-armed opposition, rebel groups and civil society, resulted in a number of agreements to move the country’s peace process forward, including the establishment of a broad-based government, a commitment to hold municipal, legislative and presidential elections in 2009 and 2010, and the setting up of an independent electoral commission.