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On CAR, France Calls Commander a Thug As Relies on Invitation from Gov

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 25 -- On the Central African Republic, the UN Security Council has again let colonial power France take the lead, as on Mali, DR Congo and Cote d'Ivoire.

  On CAR, France has a problem: if it admits that the government and its military commanders have committed war crimes, how is the government's invitation to France triple its force size a legitimate one?

  Inner City Press asked French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud about government military commander Abdallah Hamat, accused of leading war crimes in Camp Bangui earlier this month.

  "He's a thug," Araud quickly responded. But when Inner City Press asked, what should "president" Djotodia do about Hamat, Araud did not directly answer. This is the government whose invitation France is relying on.

With the word genocide being used, it may be instructive to flashback to France's role in Rwanda in 1994. It withheld information from the Council; it worked to help the Hutu government escape into Eastern Congo.

  Troublingly, Herve Ladsous who argued for those policies as France's Deputy Permanent Representative in 1994 is now the head of UN Peacekeeping, which might get involved in CAR.

  UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson cited the UN's post Sri Lanka "Rights Up Front" plan in his speech to the Security Council's open session. Inner City Press asked him about it at the stakeout afterward and he acknowledged the connection, including to Sri Lanka.

  While the UN's recent silence about the crackdown during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is troubling, one might say at least the UN admits it failed in Sri Lanka, and aims to do better at least in the Central African Republic.

If foisting Ladsous on the UN is any guide, France has not learned that those who advocated for the escape of the genocidal government in 1994 from Rwanda to Eastern Congo are a danger in today's latent genocide in Central African Republic. France has CAR troubles -- which we will continue to closely cover.
  Araud, who stands to become UN Security Council president in December, has complained that the Central African Republic is under-covered by the media. On that, we agree with him and will do what we can on our end, particularly during the coming month.

  Araud said France will circulate a draft resolution later on November 25, aiming for adoption next week, and will ask Ban Ki-moon for a report in three months.

  Since 40,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka just in the Spring of 2009, to say nothing of the 100 days of Rwanda in 1994, three months for even a UN report seem irresponsibly slow. What was that again, about learning? Watch this site.

Footnote: on accountability, Araud made the point that CAR is a member of the ICC, so it is up to Prosecutor Bensouda to act or not. Will she, after the recent mis-handled show down about Kenya?

From the UN's transcript of Deputy Secretary General Eliasson:

Inner City Press: The reports of Government military commanders, one is named Abdallah Hamat actually ordering, what seems to be a kind of atrocity – the burning down of a town called Camp Bangui. The Human Rights Watch report about this is pretty detailed, saying that this is a test for the Government whether they will hold this commander to account. What is your sense of the Government’s own role, both in the violence and sectarianism etc?

DSG: I don’t know the details about this situation that you describe. I would say the situation is rather chaotic. There is lacking control [by] the Government of the Seleka movement. There is also lacking control of the anti-Muslim, anti-Seleka groups that are now fighting the Seleka movement. So there is a risk of a rather anarchic situation arising and that’s why there is a need for stability to come from the outside at this moment. We hope very much that there will also be possibilities for us to introduce humanitarian assistance which could also have a positive stabilizing effect.

Inner City Press: Can you say how the Secretariat’s briefing today and actions relate to this new plan on human rights since the Sri Lanka….?

DSG: This is first case where the so-called “Rights Up Front” process is being discussed. This has to do with the enhanced role of human rights and looking at human rights violations as the first sign of serious conflict and also the importance of protection of civilians. That work has started after the Sri Lanka report, as you know, earlier this year, and we are now seeing this Central African Republic situation as a practical example of how we should act before the situation deteriorates further. It is serious enough already, but now is the time to react very strongly and this explains, I think, the tone of urgency of the Secretary-General’s report last week and my presentation here today.


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