UN Mission to the Central African Republic Arrives
18 Sep 2014
The arrival of United Nations troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) signals a new phase for the violent conflicts in the country. Krista Larson, Louisa Waugh and Human Rights Watch examine the situation in the CAR and the UN mission to the country.
On 15 September the United Nations' Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic ( MINUSCA) began its mission in the country. Once at full capacity (expected in February 2015) MINUSCA will have 12,000 troops. MINUSCA's mandate prioritises the protection of civilians (conservative casualty estimates range from 2,000 to over 5,000 since December 2013); supporting the implementation of a political transition process; and facilitating delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Right now in our country, we have no peace to keep.
This is a daunting task. Conflict and chaos have escalated in the country since the Seleka coalition began their push south toward the capital in 2013. They toppled then-president Bozizé, installing a replacement and systematically destroying or undermining already tenuous government control of the country in an extremely violent campaign that has spiraled out of control in the subsequent months.
As MINUSCA comes to grips with and begins to fulfill its mandate, Associated Press (AP), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and African Arguments have released reports that examine the current situation on the ground in the CAR, the priorities of the mission and the makeup of MINUSCA; each of which will assist or hinder the mission's ability to fulfill its mandate.
Krista Larson, writing for the Associated Press, describes an inarticulately horrifying reality on the ground in the CAR. Village elders sit on mats and record names brought to them by survivors. The names identify bodies in mass graves across town, often entire families. What started, in many ways, as a loosely organised rejection of long held perceptions of the political marginalisation of communities outside the capital Bangui–most severely felt in the northeast regions of the country– rivalries over control of the diamond mines and trading houses and control of licit and illicit trade routes, has morphed into something much more multifaceted and nihilistic.
HRW discusses the priority MINUSCA needs to place on increasing protection for civilians. Violence against civilians is escalating despite a ceasefire signed between representatives of the two main violent groups in July. There is also particular need for MINUSCA to vet the soldiers in the mission to mitigate sexual violence against civilians. Some troops in African Union (AU) led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) have already been implicated in disturbing cases of sexual violence and instances of extra-judicial violence and executions against Central Africans. MINUSCA will fail if those they are there to protect cannot trust them, but are instead made victims again by peacekeepers.
We are trapped between the anti-Balaka and the Seleka.
Louisa Waugh, writing for African Arguments, examines the makeup and goals of MINUSCA. Central Africans are exhausted by the unceasing violence and insecurity, but they also have reservations about the peacekeeping forces. MISCA troops, many of whom will exchange AU helmets for UN ones, have been accused of abusing their powers, specifically committing sexual violence against Central African women and girls. This is not a new allegation against peacekeeping forces, which makes it all the more unacceptable that it continues–often with impunity. Central Africans in general are optimistic about MINUSCA, an opinion the troops will live up to or destroy with their actions. The stated goals of the mission have the potential to go a long way toward bringing a sense of justice and reconciliation to surviving victims, but the populace must be included in the peace making and national rebuilding process for it to be sustainable.
- At least 5,186 people have been killed since December 2013 according to information gathered by the AP. The UN cited approximately 2,000 dead as of April 2014. These estimates are a fraction of the total killed in the conflict.
- Only 2,000 MINUSCA troops were expected to arrive on 15 September to bolster the "re-hatted" African Union troops. The remaining troops are expected in February 2015.
- The vicious cycle of violence continues largely unabated by the presence of foreign troops, especially in regions and communities away from the capital.
- More than 500,000 civilians have been displaced by violence. More than 300,000 have fled across national borders and are now refugees. Many of them are Muslim.
- Religious institutions, such as churches, mosques and the residences of religious leaders, are being used as shelters for the displaced. Violence and attacks continue to target them there.
- Female peacekeepers need to be included in MINUSCA in sufficient numbers to mitigate sexual violence.
- In March 2014, AU peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo were implicated in "enforced disappearances and executions". No investigations into the incidents have been concluded.
- General Babacar Gaye (Senegalese) is heading up MINUSCA. Diane Corner (British) is the deputy head.
- Despite the Brazzaville Accords cease-fire signed on 23 July, violence continues unabated.
- Central Africans outside the representatives of the armed groups were not included in the Accords in July–many did not know they had even been signed. They continue to feel alienated by those in power and many reject the legitimacy of the Accords.
- Among MINUSCA's goals are a nation-wide political consultation process working from the bottom up to include the people in the peace process, and the establishment of special courts across the country to prosecute atrocities committed since March 2013.
This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
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