On November 15th, the United Nations Security Council unanimously renewed the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic and approved the deployment of an additional 900 troops. Taking the total number of its military personnel to 11,650.
Despite the United States (the principal donor to the UN peacekeeping budget) announcing a budget cut, this vote came as no surprise. Earlier this year, several top UN officials, including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, visited the country. They warned about the deteriorating security situation and called for the mission to be strengthened.
“The Central African Republic is at risk of sliding back into open inter-communal violence” — Antonio Guterres
WHY IT WAS NEEDED
Since May 2017, violence has flared in CAR, leaving hundreds dead and over a million displaced, while the MINUSCA lacked the capacity and manpower to respond to new crises.
Also, CAR has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for aid workers to operate in. This year, over 230 security incidents have been reported already, severely impacting the delivery of medical supplies, food and shelter. In the past month, the last charity present in Bangassou was forced to evacuate its staff, following threats by armed groups, leaving the local population without relief.
As a result, the additional 900 peacekeepers to the 13,000 already deployed, is good news for CAR. It will provide much needed flexibility to the mission, allowing the troops to cover more areas and react quicker when hot spots emerge.
In an effort to improve the mission’s actions, Antonio Guterres launched an investigation to evaluate the mission’s shortcomings when responding to attacks against civilians. It will publish a report and provide recommendations to enhance the peacekeeping operations and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
…BUT WE HAVE TO REMAIN CAUTIOUS
The UN peacekeeping mission is comprised of several contingents, sent from different countries and with varying degrees of training and professionalism. Congolese soldiers have been under scrutiny following repeated accusations of sexual misconduct, ultimately leading to their withdrawal. On the other hand, the Portuguese contingent, which is part of the Rapid Response Force, is known for its efficiency.
In addition, operating in CAR represents a logistical challenge, as the country has few paved roads. It can take several weeks to travel from the capital, Bangui, to Bangassou, in the South East. With only two helicopters, the peacekeepers have a limited capacity to deploy quickly.
The mission’s inability to protect civilians during some attacks has created resentment and anger among the locals. On Friday 24th, a student was run over by a car and killed in Bangui. Shortly after, the UN peacekeepers were wrongly accused and two of their vehicles were set on fire by an angry mob.
Despite criticism that the mission is not protecting civilians enough, the peacekeepers are currently the only force capable of maintaining a degree of security in the country. The UN is currently in discussions with Brazil to further enhance the peacekeeping force on the ground. Brazil has been praised for its support of the UN mission in Haiti, and its peacekeepers are known to be highly trained and competent.
In the Central African Republic, armed groups are fighting to expand the territory they control, and half of the population requires humanitarian help to survive. Though addressing the security environment is the first step to ease the situation, long-term development will be key for CAR to exit its cycle of violence and rebellion.
If you want to support the people of the Central African Republic our expert network has recommended Triangle Generation Humanitaire, operating in the country since 2007.
Please visit https://weareiguacu.org/central-african-republic to learn more about how you can help those in great need in CAR.