High hopes pinned on next Central African Republic polls

Published 13.11.2015 00:16

The newly-appointed head of U.N. mission in the Central African Republic believes that the sectarian strife-hit country can return from the brink by holding elections soon, especially if its former tainted heads of states stay out of it.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), told Anadolu Agency in an interview that the U.N. mission in the country will ensure safe and secure elections in the coming months. Presidential election in the state was slated for October, but it got delayed due to the transitional government's inability to safeguard the polls.

Onanga-Anyanga now hopes elections will take place in the near future, possibly by the end of 2015 or early 2016. "It is obvious that the country has made remarkable progress, the transition is coming to an end. In a few months, the country will begin an important electoral process that will result in the election of new legitimate authorities," he said. He urged the Central African people to participate in the democratic process despite all their difficulties. "The issue of securing the elections is a priority of our mission. We are working hard with the transition authorities," he said.

He also hoped the armed groups would cease their hostilities. "The armed groups that have signed agreements to cease hostilities must engage in a process of disarmament to enter a political process."

About the possibility of CAR´s two former head of states, Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia, meeting the U.N. in a step towards reconciliation, Onanga-Anyanga said: "They are indirectly responsible for the chaos across the country? I find this absolutely unacceptable. In these conditions, you understand that it would be impossible for an institution like ours that aims to promote peace and stability to sit down with these people. It is unfortunate that some people continue to believe that they are important figures."

About the investigations into sexual abuse cases involving U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, Onanga-Anyanga said that such acts were "absolutely unacceptable and any act of this kind will be denounced and punished." "We will do everything to protect the victims; we are working with other U.N. agencies to ensure that these victims receive all the care and the attention they deserve," he added.

Last August, London-based Amnesty International published a report that claimed U.N. peacekeepers serving with the U.N. mission in the Central African Republic had allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl. Onanga-Anyanga was appointed head of the U.N. mission on Aug. 14, replacing the Senegalese Babacar Gaye, who resigned the same month following rape allegations against U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said it is investigating new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in the violence-ridden country. A U.N. official said the allegations involve three underage girls. The allegations also involve two pregnancies, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because details have not been made public. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic said in a statement that it learned of the new allegations Wednesday and sent a team to the location yesterday "to gather the facts, sensitize the troops involved, and to take immediate preventive and disciplinary measures." The United Nations is already investigating at least 16 other cases of possible sexual misconduct by U.N. troops and police in the country.

Despite the presence of some 8,000 U.N. and 2,000 French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, the ongoing chaos has led to the widespread killing of Muslims. Those who have survived have been placed in camps where there is no way out. After the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power early in 2013, the Central African Republic has been in a state of crisis. Since then, sectarian violence has been escalating in central and eastern parts of the country, as the anti-Balaka, Christian militia forces started to launch attacks against the Seleka. Amnesty International in one of its recent reports estimated that more than 5,000 people, the majority of whom were civilians, died in sectarian violence in the Central African Republic despite the presence of international forces.

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