U.S. sends delegation of religious leaders to Central African Republic.
As the United Nations prepares to send a peacekeeping force to end the intercommunal fighting that has torn apart the Central African Republic and created a humanitarian crisis there, the United States is stepping up its engagement to help restore peace and stability.
On April 8, a delegation of U.S. religious leaders representing several faiths traveled to the C.A.R. to meet with their counterparts there and government officials. Led by the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain, the group stressed the solidarity between religious communities in our two countries. It also urged interfaith cooperation to promote dialogue on greater religious tolerance and national reconciliation.
Sources of the conflict in the C.A.R. are many, but much of the fighting has taken on a sectarian character as anti-balaka militias began attacking Muslim civilians in retaliation for Seleka rebel abuses. The violence has caused tens of thousands to flee their homes in the capital Bangui and the western half of the country.
The U.S. delegation visited a mosque and the cathedral in Bangui, met with representatives of international aid groups, members of civil society, officials of the government led by Transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza, as well as with representatives of the Seleka and anti-balaka.
In a communique signed April 8 in Bangui, the parties renounced violence as a tool to resolve disputes and appealed to all citizens to disarm. They expressed appreciation for the role of the religious authorities at the national and local levels to try to pacify relations between religious communities and prevent violence. They further encouraged intercommunity and inter-religious dialogues to mitigate tensions and lay the foundations for a new peaceful coexistence.
Lastly, they asked the transitional authorities to implement the Republic Covenant, signed by the Transitional Government on November 7, 2013, as a credible framework for promoting an inclusive national dialogue between all parties in the country. This should serve as a foundation for a new peaceful co-existence.
The United States is committed to promoting such dialogue as it continues other forms of assistance. We have pledged up to $100 million this year to support African Union troops, and the French forces supporting them, in their efforts to restore security to the people of CAR. In addition, we are providing $67 million this year to address the humanitarian needs of the CAR population.