Brussels, Belgium, Nov 17 – International donors Thursday pledged $2.2 billion (two billion euros) in aid for strife-torn Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, officials said.
“The positive response you have given … will galvanise our efforts and make sure our recovery plans bear fruit,” Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera said after a donors’ conference in Brussels.
The pledges topped the $1.6 billion Touadera had wanted over three years to kick-start the devastated economy but were short of the $3.0 billion targeted for the five-year programme.
“I have noted some of you have reservations about our ability to implement our recovery plan but I hope I can reassure you,” the president said, stressing his commitment to ensure all funds were properly accounted for.
The Central African Republic sits strategically on the crossroads of Africa and is home to some five million people split deeply along ethnic and religious lines.
Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to stop violent Christian-Muslim clashes and formally ended its peacekeeping mission only last month, hailing it a success despite fresh outbreaks of violence.
A more than 10,000-strong UN force, MINUSCA, is now responsible for security.
– C.Africa not ‘a lost cause’ –
Touadera said security was absolutely vital to success but while the situation was difficult, his country was “not a lost cause.”
“We call on you to give us the support needed to make the difference … we need your solidarity and help,” he told donors in an opening address.
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said: “The Central African Republic is turning the page and now it is our turn to step up and help.”
EU Budget and Human Resources commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said Brussels and member states had put up more than $780 million and she hoped to see the total amount increase.
“We have a contract of rights and obligations with the Central African Republic and we all have to deliver on the promises we make,” Georgieva said.
“There is no reason whatever that the people of this country should be poor,” she added.
French Development Minister Andre Vallini had earlier cautioned against expecting too much.
“Nothing has been agreed yet and we do not know if we will get to these figures,” he said as he went into the conference.
Donors include the EU, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, France and the United States.
Touadera was elected early this year but still does not have full control of the country.
Efforts to disarm Muslim and Christian militias responsible for thousands of deaths and the displacement of 10 percent of the population have also failed.
France still has several hundred troops in the country as Paris and the West keep a wary eye on Boko Haram jihadists in Nigeria and northern Cameroon.
Washington also has around 100 special forces near the border with South Sudan.