By Esha Sarai*
President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the Central African Republic, who took office less than a month ago, has said his first tasks will include disarming ex-combatants and rebuilding the military.
“Security, peace and national reconciliation will enable all Central Africans to freely go about their business,” he said in an exclusive interview with VOA’s French to Africa Thursday.
He also said the international arms embargo on the C.A.R. imposed in 2013 must be lifted.
“As of today, our defense forces are not operational. … To rebuild our army, we need that embargo … lifted or at least [changed] in a way to allow our elements to operate.” He added that he felt confident, after his meeting with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, that this issue would be addressed in the next Security Council meeting.
Touadéra was elected president of the C.A.R. in February in a poll that was widely seen as a step forward for the country. The C.A.R. has been mired in violent turmoil since Seleka rebels ousted then-president François Bozize in 2013.
There has been no meaningful disarmament of armed groups, something the president said will require the financial backing of the international community.
VOA’s Jacques Aristide interviewed Touadéra in New York after the newly-elected president met with with Ban.
Touadéra said the two men discussed the accusations of child sexual abuses by French and U.N. peacekeepers in the C.A.R. He added his government is not involved in the ongoing investigation.
“What we want is justice be done … Our desire — that’s what I told the secretary-general — is that if there are cases where there is evidence, we should at least be informed and involved in probing for the truth. We will also talk to contributing countries to expedite the process so that justice is done for these victims,” he said.