The political and security situation in the Central African Republic is highly volatile, the humanitarian situation is "extremely dire," looting and sexual violence are on the rise, and armed groups are recruiting children, the U.N. envoy to the impoverished country said Tuesday.
Margaret Vogt painted a grim picture of the country following the overthrow of the government on March 24 by rebel fighters from the Seleka alliance, saying leaders who are supposed to run a transitional government can't return to their homes because they fear for their lives or because their homes were looted.
Landlocked Central African Republic has suffered numerous rebellions since independence from France. President Francoise Bozize, who came to power in 2003 through a rebellion, was forced into exile when Seleka rebels entered the capital, Bangui. Michel Djotodia, a rebel fighter who helped form Seleka, declared himself president.
The African Union suspended the Central African Republic and a regional summit last Wednesday in neighboring Chad urged Djotodia to organize democratic elections within 18 months, and to establish a council that would lead the turbulent country during a transitional period until elections can be held. Djotodia agreed, according to a spokesman.
Vogt told reporters by audio-link after briefing the U.N. Security Council that the establishment of a National Transitional Council that is inclusive, operates by consensus, and allows members to freely express themselves, is very important to help stabilize the country and "bring it (back) from the brink." The council will act like a parliament and elect the head of the transitional government, she said.
Vogt said the lack of security must also be addressed. With the departure of South African troops, who were in the Central African Republic under a bilateral agreement, she said other arrangements are needed and regional countries are looking for security assistance from other African countries.
"The political and security situation remains highly, highly volatile," Vogt stressed.
"The Seleka elements do not appear to be operating in a cohesive fashion," she said, and there are reports that child soldiers who were returned to their families are being re-recruited by some rebel factions along with others.
Vogt said "the humanitarian situation is extremely dire" because of insecurity and the looting of stocks of food and other humanitarian items. Churches and offices of religious organizations have also been attacked and looted, she said.
"Leaders who are supposed to run this government are not in a position to return to their homes because they fear for their lives or because their homes are completely looted," she said.
Vogt said the human rights situation is also bad, citing an increase in sexual violence against women which previously was reported in the provinces but is now taking place in Bangui.
She urged the international community to seek ways to improve security and support the political transition.