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February 18, 2014

AU Mission to Begin Assessing CAR Situation

by Peter Clottey

A delegation from the African Union (AU) will on Wednesday begin assessing the political and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of the continental bloc’s effort to return that country to constitutional rule after a one-year transitional period, says AU spokesman Eloi Yao.

Yao also says the AU team will be joined by a group from the United Nations to assess the humanitarian conditions there following the violence that displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The new transitional government in the CAR has a year’s mandate before a scheduled vote in 2015 to return the country to constitutional rule after Michele Djotodia led the Seleka rebels to overthrow Francois Bozize’s government last year.

Yao says the assessment is part of the AU’s effort to help organize the country’s election next year.

“There is a high level delegation from the political affairs division to assess the situation. During their stay, they would be meeting with various organizations, political leaders, religious leaders and government members,” said Yao. “With an election in 2015, the AU and its partners have to start early to engage the people, assess the situation and see under which conditions the election can take place.”

He says there appears to be relative calm in parts of the capital, Bangui following a joint military operation launched by the African-led force and French troops to disarm armed groups.

“The security operations are progressing well; there are signs of the return of normalcy. Shops are reopening and even the president and her prime minister have encouraged civil servants to resume duty,” said Yao. “So there is hope that things are going in the right direction, but some areas are relatively calm but others are a little bit problematic. Our forces have a strategy in place to bring the place to stability.”                                                                       
Yao says the delegation will also evaluate the ongoing security situation in the CAR

“All those will be taken into account because if the elections were to take place in 2015, those elections need to be done in an environment that is conducive to elections,” said Yao.

He says the AU is working with the UN humanitarian group to assess the humanitarian conditions that have so far displaced hundreds of thousands of residents in the capital, Bangui and other parts of the country.

“They will visit where the IDPs [Internally Displaced People] are to see what the progress is, and on their voluntary return back to the community,” said Yao.

Yao says the AU and its international partners will assist the country’s electoral body to administer next year’s general election.

“This assessment will include what the electoral commission will need from the AU or from the international partners so that things like the ballot papers, electoral identification and needed elements. All these will be assessed to see the feasibility of such elections when the time comes,” said Yao.

Clottey interview with Eloi Yao, an African Union spokesman