Ladies and gentlemen, soldiers of MISCA, I am honored to stand before you today. Thank you for your courage, for your sacrifice and your dedication to helping the people of Central African Republic. On behalf of the United States and President Obama, I pay special tribute to the 22 MISCA and three French soldiers who have given their lives to protect the people of this embattled land. And if we could all share a moment in silence in memory of those brave soldiers. Thank you.
It has been 20 years since the Rwandan genocide taught us the price of delay in responding to mass violence. The world has not delayed in reacting to the outbreak of horrific violence here, but it is evident from the ongoing targeting of the other that what we are doing has not yet calmed the situation. Yet as terrible as the situation here remains, it would be far worse if not for your efforts to protect civilians, disarm militias, and create areas where families can be safe. I commend you on behalf of President Obama and United States for your brave service and urge you to persevere.
Most of the casualties here have resulted not from clashes between armed forces, but by each side assaulting unarmed civilians who are associated with the rival faith. The country’s religious leaders have been eloquent in their calls for an end to the killing, but their voices have not been sufficiently heeded. The shortage of food in this country is acute. With the rainy reason about to begin, the risk of disease will increase, and it will become harder to deliver humanitarian aid.
But the people of the Central African Republic have you. They have their own resilience and they have a transitional president committed to national reconciliation and to democratic governance. Although it can be easy to forget amid the bloodshed, the people of Central African Republic appeal to us to remember that their country existed for many years with little tension between the Christian and Muslim communities. Where people have lived together in peace, they can live together in peace. And you all, you soldiers here, and officers and civilians, are playing a crucial role attempting to create the security that the people need in order to remember how much they still have in common.
The United States provided 37 vehicles to aid MISCA. Another 200 vehicles are coming plus an armored personnel carrier and more than $100 million in security support, air lift, and logistic assistance. But we know you need help and we are here to learn more about how we might support you better. On the humanitarian side, the world has pledged $500 million in aid but only 29 percent of those pledges have been filled.
We must do more; and we must do it now.
Our visit to CAR this week was intended to help prepare for the authorization and eventual launch of a UN peacekeeping mission. But we know that the prospects for that mission will be made more bright or more daunting depending on what you do between now and then. And that is why I want you to know that even as we lay a foundation for an eventual peacekeeping mission, the United States will strongly support all of you. You were the first to put your lives on the line for the people of Central African Republic. The role of African and French peacekeepers here is indispensable. But it is also necessary that the citizens of the Central African Republic from all sectors of society cooperate in protecting civilians, reducing tensions, and bringing the senseless killing to an immediate end.
In closing, I want once again to thank you. It is not easy to leave your country and to participate in an effort to restore peace in a foreign land. Often, even the best and bravest efforts can be misunderstood because they fail to achieve instant miracles. Peacekeepers deserve better. You may not be greeted by a parade when you return home, but please know that you have the world’s gratitude for your courageous service.
I wish you well and pray for both you and the people of Central African Republic.
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