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In CAR France Put Muslims at Risk, FOMAC Collusion, UN Censors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- After the UN's envoy to the Central African Republic Babacar Gaye was asked on January 13 by Inner City Press about Chadian "peacekeepers" and undue influence on CAR from outside, i.e. from France, the UN simply edited it out of its summary. 

 Video here, from Minute 12:06; compare to UN's sanitized summary, here.

  Now on January 14 the UN's own Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that its "mission received multiple reports that the disarmament of ex-Séléka carried out by the French forces left some Muslim communities vulnerable to anti-Balaka retaliatory attacks."

 This might be called the polar opposite of "Responsibility to Protect" -- the affirmative putting of civilians at risk, on religious lines.

  The OHCHR also notes that "witnesses consistently reported that ex-Séléka, wearing the armbands of Chadian FOMAC peacekeepers, went from house to house searching for anti-Balaka, and shot and killed civilians. The team also said it received credible testimonies of collusion between some Chadian FOMAC elements and ex-Séléka forces."

  The UN Human Rights Council takes up CAR on January 20. Will these UN reports of France and FOMAC be addressed?

  On January 13, Gaye said that the problem was the Chadian component of the Seleka rebels; he acknowledged that there was an intention to assign the troops from Chad outside of Bangui. But he said for now they remain there, patrolling with the Sangaris forces of France, both countries' colonist.

  Of Bozize, he said that Michel Djotodia blames human rights violations -- be to discussed in Geneva January 20 -- on Bozize followers, but said Bozize's name had not come up in the talks in Chad. (The UN had refused, when Inner City Press asked, to even confirm that Gaye and his UN mission had any role in the talks in Chad).

  Now that Michel Djotodia has resigned, after that two-day meeting held in Chad, confirmed along with the disproportionate role of Chad and France in CAR is another point.

  The UN has been marginalized even in the Central African Republic. This UN has allowed itself to become, often, a mere fig leaf for big powers, here the former colonial rulers.

   When Inner City Press on January 8 asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq of any UN role or presence at the next day's meeting in Chad at which France says the country's leadership will be determined, Haq would not directly answer. Video here from Minute 18:50; UN transcript:

Inner City Press: On the Central African Republic, Mr. [Laurent] Fabius and a Defense Minister are both quoted as saying that it will be determined tomorrow at a meeting held in Chad whether the current interim or temporary Prime Minister remains in power, that it will be decided by regional countries. And I wanted to know, given, you know, the UN’s mission and role in the Central African Republic, is the UN attending that meeting? Do they have any… what’s their presence there and what would they say to those who say that there should be more involvement in Central African people in deciding, you know, who the leader is, rather than the neighbouring countries or France?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I wouldn’t speculate on what the meeting has to accomplish. We’ll actually see what the outcome of the meeting is once it takes place. At this stage, it’s speculative to see what the meeting entails for the leadership of the Central African Republic.

Inner City Press: Is Babacar Gaye going? I just want to know that before it takes place.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll try to monitor the meeting as best we can. I don’t have any details to give you right now, but once the meeting happens, we’ll let you know.

 Now what? On January 6 some noted that UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman avoided directly answering on France's lack of impartiality in its intervention in its former colony. 

   Feltman seemed to focus on the UN's role on humanitarian issues -- even on that, the UN has been subject to scathing criticism from Doctors Without Borders -- while leaving the finding of a political solution to others.

    Reuters quotes three French officials, two named and one unnamed, opining about who should lead CAR, including, "Djotodia and us, it's not a love story. The quicker he goes, the better things will be. We are making do with him and holding him back."

   And yet Reuters, now the colonial news wire, did not mention FrancAfrique or this colonial relationship, whether such picking of leaders from outside like France did with Ahmad al Jarba in Syria, is appropriate. This is, to some, "the international community."

  Back on January 6 as the Central African Republic consultations of the UN Security Council stretched past 6 pm, Permanent Representatives then even Deputy Permanent Representatives left, even as new Council member Lithuania spoke.

One departing diplomat told Inner City Press that US Ambassador Samantha Power "gave a moving speech" but "it's not longer a time for speeches but action."

Inner City Press asked the diplomat if the sentiment is to move to a UN peacekeeping mission, or stay with MISCA (in which component contingents have fought each other) and the French SANGARIS force, accused of disarming the Seleka but not anti-balaka militia.

  The answer was UNclear. The briefer was the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, whose statement during the open meeting said "this is the first case for the Secretary General's new Rights Upfront agenda." That was the UN's belated reaction to its own systemic failure during the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009.

  But last month Doctors Without Borders pilloried the UN for not protecting civilians, even inside its own compounds, and for not deploying despite requests to Yaloke and Bouca. UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told Inner City Press she was "disappointed" by MSF's letter. What would Feltman say?

  When finally Feltman emerged, Inner City Press asked him about reports of France disarming the Seleka, not the predominantly Christian anti-balaka. Feltman replied that a "non-discriminatory way" is required, all most be disarmed. He said more coordination is needed between the UN, France's Sangaris, and MISCA.

 Moments later, Inner City Press asked Jordan's Permanent Representative Prince Zeid, the president of the Security Council for January, about perceived (im)partiality. He responded that the situation is complex, as African members pointed out, and that he and other new Council members had material to work through. We'll see.


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