The Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds:
Central African Republic (CAR) witnessed increasing levels of violence throughout December 2013 and early January 2014 with reports of up to 1,000 civilian deaths in and around the capital Bangui. This was largely due to the growth in reprisal attacks by local self-defence (“anti-Balaka”) groups and rebels associated with the Seleka coalition who overthrew the President Bozize in 2013. The rapid deployment of African Union (AU) and French troops has led to some improvements in security, and the nomination of Catherine Samba-Panza as President is a positive step in the transition to a stable government. But there are still disturbing levels of violence. The UN estimates that 838,000 people remain displaced across the country.
The UK sees improved security and humanitarian access, and a strong and inclusive political process, as key priorities. The Department for International Development has pledged a total of £15million in humanitarian aid, making the UK one of the largest bilateral donors to CAR. UK support will allow the Red Cross, UN and international aid agencies to step up their relief programmes, providing emergency healthcare, clean water and logistical support to hundreds of thousands of people, including vulnerable women and children.
In response to the worsening security situation, the Government co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2127 on 5 December 2013 which mandated the deployment of the Africa-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA). Improved security remains the vital first component to any sustained improvement to conditions in CAR. The UK is providing bilateral support to the AU through the provision of £2million to the AU to cover immediate MISCA shortfalls, including food, fuel and water. We also make a contribution, through EU funds, to the Mission’s logistical support. I have continued to demonstrate the UK’s political support for MISCA including in discussions with a number of African Foreign Ministers during the AU Summit in January 2014; the Foreign Secretary has done likewise, including with his European Union counterparts.
We continue to engage closely with France on the Central African Republic with in depth discussions during the UK-France Summit on 31 January 2014. The Prime Minister has offered further logistical support to France. This support includes logistical lifts and air to air refuelling and the provision of subject matter expertise on remotely piloted air systems.
We have also worked with EU partners to ensure that the EU continues to provide support for MISCA where possible. The EU is providing €50million to MISCA in 2014, and on 10 February 2014 adopted a Council Decision to establish a military operation to help to achieve a secure environment in the Bangui area. The Government believes that such an operation could make a real difference to the security situation on the ground. Operational planning continues, and UK is providing a military officer to assist with this. The UK will not, however, be providing combat troops. A Council Decision to launch the operation is still required and remains subject to UK Parliamentary scrutiny.
In November 2013, a UN Secretary General report recognised that conditions in CAR were not right for the deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Mission. We recognise that once the political and security conditions allow, there may be a need for MISCA to transform into a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation. The Government therefore supports the UN’s contingency preparations and planning.
The UK co-sponsored a further UNSCR (2134) on CAR which was adopted on 28 January 2014. This authorised the EU military operation in line with the EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 20 January 2014, set up a sanctions regime to target political spoilers, and strengthened the mandate of the UN’s Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR: BINUCA.
We believe that BINUCA will have a pivotal role to play in energising and coordinating the ongoing political process alongside the Economic Community of Central African States and the AU. Progress on the political front will be vital if peace and security are to return to CAR in the long-term. The Government will continue to engage closely with its international partners on the situation in the Central African Republic. Our response on the security, political, and humanitarian sides will all remain under review, and we will look for opportunities where the UK can add value to the international response.
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