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On CAR, US Power on Replacing Chad, FM on SOFA, Araud Stonewalls

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 10 -- After the UN Security Council adopted its Central African Republic peacekeeping mission resolution 15-0 on April 10, Inner City Press put questions to US Ambassador Samantha Power, French Ambassador Gerard Araud and CAR's foreign minister Toussaint Kongo Doudou.

   Since France "has the pen" on CAR, as it does on Burundi, Araud went first. Inner City Press asked him what the plans are to replace the 850 peacekeepers Chad is withdrawing after being charged with killing 30 civilians in Bangui.

  Araud said, "Ask Chad's Ambassador." (Inner City Press did ask him questions on March 7, below, but he did not come to the stakeout on April 10.)

  When Ambassador Power came out, as well as a question on Burundi which we'll separately report, Inner City Press asked her the same question, about plans now that the Chadians are pulling out.

  Ambassador Power acknowledged that the Chadian troops had given "solace" to the remaining Muslims in CAR. She said troops from Cameroon and France - imagine that - are trying to replace them, but that others will have to be recruited. From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: on this mission to the Central African Republic, with Chad having pulled its forces out, after the allegations by Navi Pillay’s office, what, what…how much more difficult does it make it, in terms of fully deploying?

Ambassador Power: Thank you, Matt. First, on the Chadian departure, I think – as my colleague from Chad testified just now in the Council – it has proven very challenging for the Chadian forces to operate in the Central African Republic, in part because Muslims, for a long time, have been branded “Chadians” by citizens of the Central African Republic. I think the Chadians offered significant solace to Muslims in the Central African Republic and, so – notwithstanding some of the incidents that occurred that of course caused great concern – there is a loss in seeing these troops depart. And I think particularly what I heard from the African Union commander is that there is – it causes concern among the Muslim population in the north – the displaced persons – who worry, who will protect us now?

Now, the African Union and the French have made adjustments. With the departure of the Chadians in the last few days, the Cameroonians and the French have stepped in to try to fill the gap. But it does only underscore the urgent – the critical urgency – of going forth right now, as we have been for months of course, but with heightened urgency to get more African troops to come in, in the period between now and September 15th when the African Mission will be rehatted as a UN mission. You know, the – just as a matter of statistics, the number of forces in the Central African Republic at a time when the security situation is still extremely grave, has just diminished. And so we need to get those troop numbers up to where they were before the Chadian departure. And then we need to find new force commitments, and that’s certainly something the United States is going to dedicate itself to at the highest levels.

  Foreign Minister Toussaint Kongo Doudou spoke in English, saying security must be restored. Inner City Press raised what Navi Pillay answered on April 8, that 80% of Muslims in CAR have been forcibly displaced (video here) and asked if the government will try to guarantee that the Muslims chased out of the country can return. Yes, he said, CAR is their country, but first security must be restored.

  Inner City Press asked him if CAR has jurisdiction over the Chadian unit charged with killing 30 civilians. He said they were part of the African Union MISCA force. But, Inner City Press asked, other say they were Special Forces there to help evacuate Muslims. Was there a Status of Forces Agreement between them and CAR?

  Toussaint Kongo Doudou repeated that the Chadians were part of a "framework." We'll see.

Thirty days but many news cycles ago on March 7 when Chad's Permanent Representative to the UN Mahamat Zene Cherif came to the Security Council stakeout, beyond asking him about child soldiers Inner City Press asked him about those who have had to flee Central African Republic into Chad. Shouldn't they be able to return to CAR? Video here and embedded below

Mahamat Zene Cherif said while Chad will not force anyone back, they should be able to return. He said that eighty percent of the Muslims have been chased out of the CAR.

How can elections be held this way, he asked.

Inner City Press asked if perhaps those displaced could vote even while in Chad. Mahamat Zene Cherif said the UN could check the feasibility, but that Chad would hope the displaced could return to CAR.

  The day before, Inner City Press tried to ask French Ambassador Gerard Araud about a statement or report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that the French Sangaris force first disarming the ex-Seleka had left Muslim community vulnerable to attack by Christian anti-Balaka militias.

  Araud refused to take the question while at the microphone, then from the wings insisted there is no Navi Pillay report. Click here for that.

  What forces allowed 80% of the Muslims in CAR to be chased out? And what responsibility do they bear? Watch this site.


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