20 July 1999
Central African Republic Asks UN for Help With Congo Refugees
(UN special envoy briefs Security Council) (550) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- The Central African Republic is asking the United Nations for help in dealing with an influx of Congolese soldiers and refugees as it struggles to build its own democratic institutions, a UN special envoy said July 20. The special representative of the secretary-general for the Central African Republic, Oluyemi Adeniji, told the council that the situation in Bangui had deteriorated since July 18 as more than 4,000 refugees had fled into the Central African capital after the Congolese rebel movement MLC began closing in on a Congo town across the river. President Patasse of the Central African Republic has written to Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking for urgent international humanitarian assistance to help his government cope with the new influx of refugees, Adeniji told journalists after a private meeting with the Security Council. Adeniji also called attention to the difficult situation caused by the 5,000 Congolese soldiers now the responsibility of the government of the Central African Republic since the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has declined to take charge of the former combatants. One "festering issue" he discussed with the Security Council is the "lack of progress in restructuring the Central African armed forces and assurance that each part is confined to its responsibility for defense of republic institutions," the special representative said. Security Council President Agam Hasmy of Malaysia said that the council is deeply concerned at the minimal progress achieved by the Central African government so far in several areas. In a statement to the press, Hasmy said that council members "recalled the need for the Central African Republic authorities to establish a multi-ethnic national army and also to train and equip police and gendarmerie forces in order to assure law and order. They underlined the need for the Central African Republic authorities to promulgate as soon as possible the four bills on the restructuring of the armed forces adopted by the National Assembly on May 3, 1999." Council members also urged the government to ensure that measures are taken to address the crucial issue of salary arrears and implement further fiscal reforms in order to strengthen revenue collection, the president said. "Members of the council expressed their dismay that the continued fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has had a negative impact on the situation in the Central African Republic," the president said. "They strongly urged all concerned parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respect the neutrality of the Central African Republic." In a written report to the council July 15, the secretary-general said that given the security situation in the region, especially the flight of thousands of Congolese government troops into the republic, the size of the UN operation in the country -- the U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) --should be increased by 148 to the authorized level of 1,498 troops. Annan also suggested that the Security Council consider approving a slightly higher force level in order to ensure the security of UN personnel and electoral operations as the first round of elections comes up at the end of August.
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