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Press Conference by Prime Minister of Central African Republic, 5 April 2012

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

The Prime Minister of the Central African Republic made an impassioned plea today for the international community to help his Government successfully launch and maintain a new institutional framework for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, saying it was crucial to the country’s efforts to reform the security sector and jump-start development.

“Everything is in our favour save for the funding,” Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra said at a Headquarters press conference attended also by Margaret Vogt, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).

“We need that support now because we would like to start implementing our development programmes, he continued. “We cannot do this without [disarming the ex-combatants].” The main rebel groups were prepared to lay down their arms and rejoin their communities, but without proper funding, it would be difficult for the Government to get its disarmament strategy up and running.

The Prime Minister explained that he and other senior officials had stressed that point during the first part of a day-long meeting of the Group of Friends of the Central African Republic attended by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Group of Friends had acknowledged the need to support the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration framework, as well as the crucial importance of sustaining such activities for broader development, which could turn the tide against rebels and armed groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), whose deadly marauding had made it nearly impossible for farmers to make a living in the country’s northern “bread basket” region.

“We would like to leave the meeting knowing that we have enough resources to continue the programme before the rainy season begins,” he continued, adding that, while Australia had been the only participant in the meeting to make specific commitments, the Government expected other pledges of support to follow. Meanwhile, the Central African Republic’s intention was to press ahead with the implementation of its disarmament strategy, he said, noting that such perseverance was crucial because the country faced myriad challenges beyond the activities of rebel groups.

Indeed, alongside a host of socio-economic ills, the Government was battling arms traffickers and other organized criminals, the Prime Minister pointed out. “We have a window of opportunity,” he said. “If we wait on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, we believe some [ex-fighters] may take up arms again.” That could destabilize the country and erase both the great progress that the Government had made, as well as the international community’s hard-won investments, he warned.

Ms. Vogt said the aim of the meeting had been simple: to drive home to the Friends of Central African Republic the message that implementing the country’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration strategy was vital to consolidating the security environment. “We, too, see a window of opportunity as the Government, over the past year, has taken a number of initiatives to carry out this process,” she added.

Yet, although the Government had invested heavily, it had reached the limit of its resources, she continued. “While everything is a priority, we consider security-sector reform the ‘priority of priorities’,” she said, expressing hope that international partners would not place any conditions on the Government’s efforts to ensure stability and security. “We need to really focus on the needs of the people,” she emphasized, noting that there was a “push from the bottom up” for disarmament. “But we have to move fast” to curb LRA activities. Another aim of both the Government and the United Nations was to develop the Central African Republic as a “firewall” against the worsening security and humanitarian conditions spreading from the Sahel.

In response to questions about the LRA, Mr. Touadéra said the Minister for Defence had spoken to the Group of Friends about the activities of the group, which had been ousted from Uganda and was now believed to be headquartered in the Central African Republic. The LRA was “very harmful” and the battle against it must be waged in conjunction with efforts to complete the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, he stressed.

If other groups were disarmed, it would be easier to defuse the “real and serious threat” posed by the LRA, he continued. “All former combatants are willing to lay down arms and return to their communities”, he said, adding that, when that occurred, the Central African Republic’s Armed Forces would be able to participate more effectively in the African Union-led and United States-assisted fight against the group.

Asked about the work of BINUCA, Ms. Vogt said the operation was now an integrated mission and a number of changes had taken place to “refocus strategy”. It nevertheless remained a challenge to ensure that all parts worked together, she said, adding that she had tried to provide focus, making civilian protection a high priority while concentrating on demobilizing child soldiers, addressing the impact of the LRA and ending gender-based violence.

On more practical matters, she expressed concern that “we continue to receive mandates without money”, explaining that the last Security Council resolution on BINUCA had expanded its LRA-related activities but had been less clear about how they would be financed. As a result, the Office was recruiting people who could collaborate with the United Nations and help the Government develop a national strategy to combat the LRA by encouraging defections and addressing repatriation issues.

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