United Nations officials continued to voice their concern today over the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) – where more than 30 people have been killed, over 100 have been wounded and thousands are seeking shelter amid the recent upsurge in violence – and stressed the need for free movement for aid workers to reach those in need.
According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA), although the security situation has calmed in the last 24 hours, tensions persist in the capital, Bangui, which had been the scene of attacks against civilians, violence between communities and attacks against humanitarian personnel since a young Muslim man was murdered on 26 September.
“MINUSCA is conducting patrols around critical areas, with the view of protecting civilians, including one Muslim and two Christian hotspots at 3rd and 5th districts in Bangui,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
“As of today, the main road towards the airport has been re-opened, as have some other key roads and barricades have been removed.”
Mr. Dujarric said that yesterday, over 500 prisoners escaped from the Ngaragba prison in Bangui and others escaped in Bouar. “Some of these include well-known perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, and pose a serious threat to civilians and the protection of victims and witnesses and beyond, to the overall security situation.”
The UN Mission is engaging in a political dialogue with local authorities and all other actors, including government officials and community leaders in order to put an end to further violence, the spokesperson said. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MINUSCA Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who was in New York for the annual high-level meetings of the General Assembly, has returned to Bangui.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said the prison escape is “a huge setback” for the preservation of law and order, and for the fight against impunity, which has been and remains a chronic problem in CAR.
“This is a crucial moment for the Central African Republic. The Transitional Government authorities must work closely with MINUSCA and other international forces to urgently stop what appears to be a deliberate attempt to derail the current peace process and important progress made in CAR over the last 18 months,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said at a press briefing in Geneva.
Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, Aurélien A. Agbénonci, and the rest of the humanitarian community there has deeply condemned the attacks against humanitarian organizations and residences during the latest outbreak of violence, and called for the free movement of aid workers to reach civilians in need.
Over the past three days, conditions for aid agencies in Bangui have deteriorated, according to a news release issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Several offices and residences of relief organizations have been looted and their freedom of movement impeded, especially health workers in hospitals.
“The work of non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies providing emergency relief to the population is based on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality. The safety and security of aid workers and their property is a condition for programmes to be carried out,” said Mr. Agbénonci.
According to OCHA, more than 27,000 people have fled the areas with heightened tension, to seek refuge mostly with host families and in displacement sites.
“Urgent access to the displaced population is needed, so I call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law… Displaced people are reported to be in a state of shock and extreme fear. Many have been displaced repeatedly. Central to the work of any aid agency is that their national and international staff members are free to move, unimpeded, to reach civilians in need,” Mr. Agbénonci stated.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said fighting and the numerous roadblocks have made an already difficult humanitarian situation worse, impeding the ability of the agency and its partners to gain access to thousands of internally displaced people and assess needs.
“All sides should urgently allow humanitarian organizations access to areas hosting the newly displaced,” said UNHCR spokesperson Leo Dobbs.
Yesterday, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council called for an immediate end to the sudden eruption of violence in CAR and urged the country’s leaders and partners in the sub-region to work closely with the UN to prevent the violence from derailing the political process.
A high-level meeting on CAR is expected to take place on Thursday in New York on the side lines of the Assembly’s annual general debate.