Central African Republic
Q. – More than three months after the start of Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic, what’s your message to the transitional authorities?
THE MINISTER – That France is totally galvanized. And also that the international community is equally galvanized. In January there was a commitment in Brussels by the European Union to allocate $500 million to the Central African Republic. It was the first time the new interim President had simultaneously met the major international donors – France, Germany and the EU.
Q. – Has that money been released?
THE MINISTER – Only 15% of that sum has been released. But in order for the majority of this package to be distributed, you have to restore the financial channels. Now’s the time to do so. We must move onto a different level.
Q. – Will the Central African Republic need additional development aid?
THE MINISTER – That $500 million has to be added to the $200 million of the Central African Republic’s state budget for 2014, so it’s already a lot. The challenge today isn’t so much to rechannel additional funds as to create mechanisms enabling the money to be spent. Everything has to be redone. Seeds, for example, have to be bought, of course, but above all transported to Bangui and then to the villages that need them. Likewise, in order for there to be customs, security must be restored at the borders.
Q. – So these financial efforts could be in vain unless the security issue is resolved…
THE MINISTER – We have a simple equation: no development is possible without security and, in the long term, no security without development. If we’re not capable of restoring security to the country’s major routes, we’ll have to spend a lot more money. Hence the importance of galvanizing the international community, which is what we’re doing.
Q. – Isn’t the uncertainty greater for France, as long as that the UN peacekeeping force, planned for September, hasn’t been deployed?
THE MINISTER – We would have liked this force before the summer, but we’re not the only ones deciding. It will finally be deployed in September. I hope this isn’t too late.
Q. – But France’s responsibility in rebuilding the Central African Republic is huge…
THE MINISTER – France’s responsibility is huge but shared. It would be wrong to suggest that only France can resolve every problem. France is currently the leading donor, but it accounts for only 10% of the $500 million in official humanitarian and development assistance. We’re at the forefront, in a position of leadership but above all not of isolation
Q. – Is there a humanitarian disaster in the Central African Republic today?
THE MINISTER – Some of the indicators point in the right direction. There are fewer displaced people inside the country. There are fewer murders in Bangui. On the other hand, there’s now an extremely significant food security risk. A large sector of the population has only one meal a day. If we fail in the coming weeks with the start of the rainy season, the distribution of seeds and food aid, we’ll have a genuine risk of famine in three to six months. It’s a race against the clock./.