CAR: Ban reiterates call for end to inter-communal violence

New York, Dec 28 : Amid reports of bodies found on the streets of the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is again appealing for an end to the inter-communal violence between Christians and Muslims, calling the continued fighting "appalling."

In a statement from his spokesperson late Thursday, Ban also paid homage to six peacekeepers from the African-led International Support Mission (MISCA) killed the day before. The UN Security Council authorized the force earlier this month to quell the spiralling violence.

"He calls on all parties and citizens to cooperate with the African Union and French forces," said the statement. The spokesperson added that MISCA's mission is to provide "desperately needed security" and that its peacekeepers are not part of the conflict between Central Africans.

Ban spoke by phone on Friday with French President Francois Hollande, with whom he discussed the need to address the mission's capacity constraints by raising the number of personnel capable of providing security to the territory, undertake disarmament and support the organization of elections.

The UN has already started, at the request of the Security Council, to work on contingency planning and preparations to potentially transform MISCA into a UN peacekeeping operation.

CAR has been thrown into turmoil since Seleka rebels launched attacks a year ago and forced President Francois Bozize to flee in March. A transitional government has since been entrusted with restoring peace and paving the way for democratic elections, but armed clashes have erupted again, and in Bangui last week, Christians and Muslims launched reprisal attacks against each other in and around the city.

Ban called again on the Transitional Authorities to uphold their responsibilities to rein in "those fomenting and perpetrating" the violence, warning perpetrators that they will be held to account.

He welcomed appeals for peace by religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, and expressed hope that leaders at all levels will reinforce this message.

In a personal video/audio message last week, Ban stressed that the world was watching and that the UN was committed to helping CAR recover from this crisis. "You are not alone and we will not abandon you," he told the people of the strife-torn nation.

Reaffirming his message, Ban added that the urgency at this time is to provide security and protection for the civilian population, facilitate humanitarian assistance, and create the conditions for a negotiated and orderly return to constitutional order.

He also noted the commitment of UN personnel working under "extremely trying circumstances" to help the people of the CAR, among them a national colleague killed on Tuesday, and said he was committed to the safety of all staff.

UN agencies have reported that the humanitarian situation in the country is deteriorating, with at least 600 people killed this month alone, and 159,000 others driven from their homes in Bangui.

The humanitarian actors in the country are appealing for USD 152 million to ensure protection for 1.2 million citizens over the next three months, and to host communities in Bangui and nine districts in western CAR.

Without such funding, the hundreds of thousands of people living in a "deplorable humanitarian situation" could be pushed into a humanitarian catastrophe, the Senior Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, Abou Dieng, said in a news release.

The funding is part of the Strategic Response Plan for the country, estimated at USD 247 million, which was recently launched and revised upwards based on the needs triggered by the recent violence.

--IBNS (Posted on 28-12-2013)

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