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Central African Republic: Ban says political and security situation is 'fragile'

25 June 2008 – The overall political, security and economic situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains fragile and is characterized by widespread poverty, insecurity and a disturbing cycle of human rights violations and impunity, according to the latest report submitted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council.

The current situation on human rights “victimizes innocent civilians and leaves those responsible within the defence and security forces, rebel movements and highway bandits, free to commit even more crimes,” Mr. Ban stressed.

However, the Secretary-General also praised intensified efforts in the country to promote dialogue and welcomed a peace agreement that was concluded between the Government of CAR and the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la democratie (APRD) rebel movement on 9 May. Mr. Ban said that the country had seen a decrease in the intensity of conflict between Government forces and rebel groups in the north of the country, but added that acts of lawlessness and indiscipline by defence and security forces, especially in relation to the general public, were on the increase. The report also noted that a new zone of tension had emerged in the southeast of the country, where suspected renegade elements of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group had reportedly infiltrated into CAR from their bases in southern Sudan.

Despite efforts by Government forces, the LRA elements had continued to operate relatively unfettered, burning and vandalizing villages as well as stealing goods and property, Mr. Ban reported.

Increased activities by highway bandits, known as zaraguinas, or coupeurs de route, mainly in the northwest of the country, had resulted in the emergence of self-defence vigilante groups which no longer hesitate to openly confront the bandits, Mr. Ban said.

He added that, of the 100,000 people who have fled their homes in the northwest, around one third were driven out by organized banditry, rather than by political conflict between the Government and rebel groups.

The first six months of 2008 had also been a challenging period for humanitarian workers, who suffered several attacks by armed groups and highway bandits, the Secretary-General said, while calling for unhindered access to populations in need.

“I renew my appeal to all armed groups to lay down their weapons and work towards the restoration of sustainable peace and stability,” Mr. Ban added.

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