Wednesday 21 February 2018

UN chief in war-torn C.Africa town

UN chief in war-torn C.Africa town
(AFP (eng) 10/25/17)
Secretary-General António Guterres is greeted by residents of Bangui, Central African Republic.

UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in the strife-ravaged town of Bangassou on Wednesday for a first-hand look at a notorious hotspot in Central African Republic's bloody conflict.

Guterres, making his first visit to one of Africa's most troubled countries since he took the UN helm in January, stepped off a plane from the capital Bangui, where he arrived late Tuesday.

Mineral-rich but extremely poor, CAR has been battered by a three-year conflict between rival militias that began after the then president, Francois Bozize, was overthrown.

Acting under a UN mandate, the former colonial power France intervened militarily to push out the Muslim Seleka rebels who had taken over, and the United Nations launched a peacekeeping mission in 2014.

But the country remains unstable and mired in violence.

Thousands have lost their lives and half a million people have been displaced out of a population of roughly 4.5 million.

After a visit of several hours, Guterres was to return to Bangui later to talk to victims of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers -- part of an effort to address damaging allegations that have hit the blue helmets in several missions -- and representatives of NGOs.

CAR has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarian groups to work.

Guterres' trip comes in the context of a looming decision by the UN on whether to renew the mandate, which expires next month, of its 12,500-troop peacekeeping force.

He is lobbying for the mandate to be renewed and for an additional 900 troops.

On the first day of his visit, which coincided with United Nations Day, Guterres led a wreath-laying service in honour of peacekeepers killed in action.

"There is nothing more precious than peace. There is nothing more noble than working to maintain peace, even if the work means sacrificing lives," he said.

"(...) The international community is not involved enough, has not provided enough of its financial resources and its capabilities to help the Central African Republic," he said.

Guterres leaves on Friday.

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