Meeting: the situation in the Central African Republic

Diane Corner, United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), is the special guest at this meeting, hosted by The All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the African Great Lakes region and The Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Also present will be the CEO and co-founder of the Aegis Trust and President of the UK Holocaust Centre, Dr James Smith CBE.

The meeting will be chaired by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Great Lakes

Monday 15th December 2014, 5pm-6pm, Committee Room 19, Palace of Westminster

Over a year and a half since the Séléka rebel coalition ousted President Bozizé in March 2013 and over four months after the signing of a cease-fire agreement between the two main warring factions – ex- Séléka and anti-balaka – on 23rd July in Brazzaville, intercommunal violence has not abated in the Central African Republic.

Insecurity and violence keep increasing the vulnerability and food security of the populations, especially those of internally-displaced people (IDPs) and CAR refugees in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

According to the latest figures of the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 2.5 million (within a population of 4.6m) are in need of humanitarian aid, including over 430,000 IDPs and 423,000 CAR refugees in neighboring countries.

The international community has struggled to respond to the enormous needs in CAR. Responses to the crisis have had to compete with other better-publicised high-level emergencies, resulting in persistent underfunding. Only 61% of the $555m requested by the 2014 global humanitarian appeal has been made available as of 20th November. Insecurity, poor infrastructure, limited staffing and limited and changing access make it even harder for UN agencies and NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is most needed.

The UK’s total direct contribution in humanitarian support has amounted to £18 million in 2014 (and £23 million since July 2013), additionally to funds already committed through the EU and UN, making it the third largest bilateral provider of humanitarian aid to the country.

The isolated and contested CAR transitional government has been put under strain since the Brazzaville peace agreement, as factions from both the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka have rejected its legitimacy and called for CAR’s President and Prime Minister to stand down. Destabilised also by allegations of corruption, CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza has denounced the pressure, embezzlement accusations , and eruptions of violence in Bangui as attempts to overthrow the government, and vowed to hold talks with the Séléka and anti-balaka in the coming weeks.

In light of the ongoing violence as well as the lack of financial means, the national electoral authority had announced on 1st September that the country’s elections, scheduled for February 2015, would be delayed, which was confirmed by the International Contact Group for the CAR (ICG), at the conclusion of their meeting in Bangui on 11th November. the ICG decided to request an extension of the country’s transition period for six months, and called for the acceleration of the transition process with a view to holding elections in June 2015.

The international community has had a long presence in the CAR, with a first UN peacekeeping mission starting in 1998. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) officially took over the mission from the AU-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) this 15th September.

While MINUSCA will have a larger number of troops on the ground, whether it will be able to bring peace to the country remains debated, as experts believe that the six month mandate is too short to bring stability to the country. Its slow contingent deployment has already prompted the European Union military operation in the CAR (EUFOR RCA) to be extended until 15th March 2015 in order to ensure an effective transition.

The mandate and number of tasks which MINUSCA received from the UN Security Council have been deemed too extensive by some experts: Protection of civilians at the top of the list, followed by support for the transition process, the facilitation of humanitarian assistance, promotion of human rights, support for the rule of law, disarmament and demobilisation, and protection of its own forces. Altogether there are 22 priority tasks, plus another five “additional tasks”, including support for security sector reform, to be tackled when conditions permit.

Some experts have argued that only a carefully staged approach would work, starting by deploying all the people needed for civilian protection – not just military peacekeepers, but police and civilians as well. In particular, they say there should be a rapid recruitment of community liaison assistants, ideally CAR nationals, to facilitate communication between the conflict-affected communities and MINUSCA units.

Other analysts, such as the International Crisis Group or the Enough Project, have highlighted that MINUSCA, and the international community as a whole, should not only focus on security, but should also address the underlying causes of the conflict(s). In particular, the international community should help re-build an effective public governance system through long-term development support designed to durably improve the state infrastructure and the delivery of essential public services.


Diane Corner was appointed United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on 24 July 2014.

Ms. Corner succeeds Lawrence Wohlers of the United States of America, who was on short-term assignment.

Ms. Corner brings to the appointment several years of relevant diplomatic experience in the Great Lakes region in her 32 years with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including as the British High Commissioner to Tanzania and United Kingdom Representative to the East African Community (2009-2013), and most recently as the British Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Congo (2013-2014).

Diane joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1982. Additionally to posts in London as Deputy Head of the FCO’s OSCE/COE Department from 1998-2000, head of the FCO’s HR Employment Policy Department, and Chief Assessor for the UK Civil Service’s Fast Stream recruitment in 2003-04, Prism Programme Director and then Shared Services Programme Director from November 2005 to April 2008, she served in Kuala Lumpur New York, as Deputy High Commissioner to Zimbabwe (2001-2003), in Sierra Leone as Acting High Commissioner (2008-09), before being posted in Tanzania as High Commissioner.

Ms. Corner holds a degree in French and Politics (joint honours) from the University of Bristol.  In 2000, she completed the Senior Course at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Defence College in Rome.

Dr James M Smith CBE is the CEO and co-founder of the Aegis Trust and the President of the UK Holocaust Centre.

During the Kosovo crisis in 1999 he was a volunteer physician with the International Medical Corps (He was a trainee surgeon, having qualified as a medical doctor in Leeds, 1993).  Following the Kosovo Crisis James was convinced that the public health approach to the prevention of diseases should be applied to the prevention of  genocide.  He founded the Aegis Trust in 2000.

In 2002 he staged the first major international conference on genocide prevention with the UK Foreign Office (held at The Holocaust Centre).  In 2004, working with the Rwandan Government and Kigali City Council, he was responsible for establishing the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda’s capital, at a site where some 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide lie buried. It receives tens of thousands of visitors each year, world leaders among them.

James visited Darfur in 2004 and was the first NGO head to call for its referral to the International Criminal Court. He has subsequently revisited both Sudan and South Sudan.

James is the President of the UK National Holocaust Centre.  He was awarded the CBE in the New Years Honours List in 2014 for services to Holocaust education and genocide prevention.