04/25/2014 08:00 EDT | Updated 06/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Canada Must Do Its Part to Stop Violence in the Central African Republic

As Rwandans, with the rest of the world, remember the genocide that took place 20 years ago, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the international community needs to learn from such atrocities and ensure that the words "never again" are translated into action.

In a related article published in The Independent (UK), the UN Chief wrote: "The international community cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from what it actually means to prevent them. Global leaders should do more to prevent the preventable, and to counter the cruelty taking place before our eyes."

On April 10, the United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously approved the establishment of an almost 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping operation to protect civilians, and facilitate humanitarian access in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR).

The new mission will take over the responsibilities of the African-led International Support Mission (MISCA) on September 15th, 2014, and it will include up to 10,000 military and 1,800 police personnel.

The UN has repeatedly called for an immediate end to the killings, targeted attacks, and other human rights violations in CAR. It is hoped that the establishment of the new Mission will lead to concrete and sustainable support that the people of CAR need and deserve.

The crisis in CAR has left thousands of people dead; as of April 16, 200,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, 650,000 people remain internally displaced, and 2.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, previously asked: "How many more children have to be decapitated, how many more women and girls will be raped, how many more acts of cannibalism must there be, before we really sit up and pay attention?"

The conflict has destroyed livelihoods; unemployment is widespread in all sectors, and civil servants have not been paid for several months. The crisis has also led to the loss of food, cash crops, and livestock.

What complicates this dire situation even further is that the rainy season in CAR has begun early this year, and now there is flooding in refugee camps, and the risk of malaria has increased.

CAR stands at a humanitarian and moral cross-road; we must ensure that this human tragedy does not become another human catastrophe, and that Canada does its part to help stop the violence, to save lives and to rebuild livelihoods.

Since February, we have repeatedly asked what role the Government would take to stop the violence. We asked that, if there were a call for broad-based participation in an international peacekeeping operation, what criteria the Government would apply to formulate its response

We asked whether Canada would play a supportive role in an EU deployment to CAR, as there is a Canada-EU framework agreement to govern our participation in European crisis management operations. Would Canada engage with its partners through this agreement to help protect civilians in CAR and restore security?

We also asked whether Canada would explore the options of increasing funding to the UN Trust Fund to support the MISCA force. Would Canada send technical advisors to assist the force to establish effective command and control functions, and would we provide logistical support, including strategic airlift?

In light of the unanimously approved UN mission, is the Government considering sending logistical or peacekeeping support, or funding the current troops on the ground in CAR?

Canada has already taken some steps to relieve suffering. On February 11th, 2014, the Government of Canada announced $5 million in new humanitarian assistance to address urgent needs in CAR. And on March 27th, 2014, the Government announced another $11 million to help meet the widespread humanitarian needs.

Now, as the conflict deepens, will the Government play a role in conflict resolution through its conflict management and governance funds? And will the Government support peace and stability by offering to act as a negotiator and intermediary?

In the medium and long-term, what, concretely, will the Government do to aid and stabilize CAR? For example, will the Government invest in the reconstruction of the education system so that children can regain stability, begin the reconciliation process, and have hope for the future?

How will the Government work with the United Nations and other like-minded nations to aid in developing, implementing, and maintaining a longer-term development and assistance plan for CAR?

Will Canada support the organization and monitoring of fair and free elections that will take place in one year?

Finally, CAR must not become another Rwanda. As the Government considers what action to take, it must remember that what we do now or fail to do will have an impact on CAR society for years to come, and we will be judged on how we choose to act.


Violence Wracks Central African Republic