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US Embassy Bangui: Central Africans Turn Out For Constitutional Referendum

Posted: 12:32 am EDT

 

On September 11, 2014, President Obama notified Congress of the deployment of troops to the Central African Republic in preparation of the resumption of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui (see U.S. Troops Deploy to C.A.R. For Resumption of Operations at U.S. Embassy Bangui).  David Brown who was appointed CDA last year concluded his assignment this past October.

A Sept 30, 2015 Travel Warning for the Central Africa Republic warns against all travel there and notes that Embassy Bangui cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR at this time:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to an unpredictable security situation subject to rapid deterioration, activities of armed groups, and violent crime. The border between Chad and CAR is currently closed. Other land border crossings may close at short notice. U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR despite this warning should seriously consider departing. Embassy Bangui cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR at this time. This replaces the Travel Warning of May 1, 2015 to reflect the risk of remaining in CAR and continued lack of security.

Indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in CAR since the overthrow of the Government in March 2013. Sectarian violence is frequent and has resulted in thousands of deaths. Despite the creation of a transitional government in January 2014 and the presence of a United Nations stabilization force, the security situation remains highly fragile. Instability has increased as the political transition process unfolds around the upcoming constitutional referendum and elections which were initially scheduled for October 2015.

On October 30th, Jeffrey Hawkins presented his credentials to President Catherine Samba-Panza, as the Ambassador of the United States to the Central African Republic and assumed charge of the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. Here’s a quick summary of USG presence in the country:

The Central African Republic is located in a volatile and poor region and has a long history of development, governance, and human rights problems. The U.S. Embassy in C.A.R. was briefly closed as a result of 1996-97 military mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development and Peace Corps missions previously operating there did not return. The Embassy again temporarily suspended operations in November 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of a 2003 military coup. The Embassy reopened in 2005. Restrictions on U.S. aid that were imposed after the 2003 military coup were lifted in 2005. Due to insecurity and the eventual overthrow of the C.A.R. Government, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui has been closed since December 2012 (note: post officially resumed limited operation on September 15, 2014).

On December 9, 2015, Embassy Bangui issued an emergency message as one of its embassy vehicles was fired upon near M’Poko International Airport.

According to the AFP, the constitutional referendum on December 13 is the Central Africans’ day to decide whether they backed a proposed constitution that would limit presidential tenure to two terms, fight corruption and crimp the power of armed militias, blamed for years of chaos and terror. It is also seen as a test run for presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place December 27 to end more than two years of conflict between Muslim and Christian militias.

 At PK5, the flashpoint Muslim district of the capital Bangui, Ambassador Jeffrey Hawkins, SRSG Parfait Onanga-Ayanga, and the mayor of the 5th arrondissement Atahirou Balla Dod visited the voting station, where they commended those who participated despite the difficulties.

At PK5, the flashpoint Muslim district of the capital Bangui, Ambassador Jeffrey Hawkins, SRSG Parfait Onanga-Ayanga, and the mayor of the 5th arrondissement Atahirou Balla Dod visited the voting station, where they commended those who participated despite the difficulties.

 

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