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The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation
The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
In the Central African Republic, Peace Requires More Than a Bigger U.N. Force
In the Central African Republic, Peace Requires More Than a Bigger U.N. Force
Report 219 / Africa

The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation

To stabilise the Central African Republic (CAR), the transitional government and its international partners need to prioritise, alongside security, action to fight corruption and trafficking of natural resources, as well as revive the economy.

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Executive Summary

The crisis that has plagued the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012, particularly predation by both authorities and armed groups, has led to the collapse of the state. Under the Seleka, bad governance inherited from former regimes worsened. Its leaders looted state resources and controlled the country’s illicit economic networks. Ending this cycle of predatory rule and moving peacefully to a state that functions and can protect its citizens requires CAR’s international partners to prioritise, alongside security, economic revival and the fight against corruption and illegal trafficking. Only a close partnership between the government, UN and other inter­national actors, with foreign advisers working alongside civil servants in key ministries, can address these challenges.

Governance under the short Seleka rule (March-December 2013) was deceptive: the regime proclaimed its positive intentions while, like its predecessors, plundering public funds and abusing power for self-enrichment. Though Seleka fighters were involved in illicit activities even before, once in power the movement asserted control of lucrative trafficking networks (gold, diamond and ivory). Their systematic looting destroyed what was already a phantom state. Retaliation by anti-balaka fighters against Muslims – the majority of traders are Muslim – aggravated the economic collapse.

The economy fell apart even before the state; yet the current international intervention spearheaded by the G5 (African Union, UN, European Union, the U.S. and France) focuses for the most part on security. Troops are being mobilised, but if a principal cause of the conflict – entrenched predation – is left unaddressed, the international community will repeat the failures of its past interventions. Protecting citizens is important; but so too is rekindling economic activity and improving financial public management to help build an effective public governance system delivering services for all CAR citizens, both Muslim and Christian.

A new UN mission (MINUSCA) will be deployed in September 2014. In addition to its current mandate – protecting civilians, assisting a political transition, supporting humanitarian work and monitoring human rights – it must change the incentive structure for better governance. It should prioritise rebuilding the economy and public institutions and fighting trafficking. The region and relevant multilateral organisations should be involved too. Targeted sanctions against spoilers in and outside CAR should be embedded in a more comprehensive strategy to revive the economy.

Some politicians with ties to armed groups or who are eying what are for the moment hypothetical presidential elections could resist a tight partnership between the state and international community. But the transitional government’s demand for strong international support offers an opportunity to forge such a partnership and adopt the policies essential to both stabilise the country and promote a change of governance.

Op-Ed / Africa

In the Central African Republic, Peace Requires More Than a Bigger U.N. Force

Originally published in World Politics Review

The U.N. Security Coucil approved a resolution to extend the mandate of the U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2018, also increasing the mission’s troop ceiling by 900. Richard Moncrieff, Project Director for Central Africa, states that the Central African Republic needs more than just troops to meet the country's security challenges.

On Nov. 15, the United Nations Security Council will meet to decide on the fate of the U.N. mission in Central African Republic, known by its acronym MINUSCA. In stark contrast to the debate over the U.N. mission in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which the U.S. pushed to reduce last April after citing its ineffectiveness and cost, few in New York expect cuts to the Central African Republic (CAR) mission. 

To the contrary, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited CAR at the end of October and called for increasing the mission’s authorized troop ceiling, currently just over 12,000, by an additional 900 troops. Adama Dieng, his adviser on genocide prevention, and Stephen O’Brien, the undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, both also visited the country in recent months and warned of the escalating violence and a distressing humanitarian catastrophe there. The troubling situation and the pockets of success the U.N. force has achieved so far have left the U.S. relatively favorably disposed to increasing troop numbers, despite serious concerns over allegations of sexual abuse by some contingents. 

The U.N. mission is in an increasingly complicated position on the ground. Having made some gains in late 2016 and early 2017 by pushing armed groups out of some towns and deterring some attacks, the U.N. force has since appeared overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis as well as by its own rigidity. Poor mobility—the mission has two operational helicopters in a country larger than France—a lack of intelligence, and an unwillingness to react quickly when such intelligence is available have rendered it ineffective in the face of rising violence among competing militias. 

This has put the U.N. under intense pressure in the capital, Bangui. When Guterres spoke to CAR’s parliament on Oct. 27, government and opposition politicians managed a rare moment of unity, criticizing the U.N. for its passivity and, according to some, even complicity in the face of the violence. Aside from wanting a far more proactive posture from the U.N., the parliamentarians want to see CAR’s national army up and running, despite slow progress on training and its history of incompetence and abuse. Guterres, sensing the mood, acknowledged that the army would start deploying soon. Unless his U.N. force can up its game, calls for ever greater—and ever riskier—deployment of the national army will increase.

The U.N. force certainly needs more troops, and the Security Council should increase the ceiling. It also needs greater mobility and a stronger willingness to react quickly and decisively. But these measures alone would still limit the U.N. mission to merely putting out fires. The U.N., and other international actors, also need to address the incentive structure that is driving the violence.

Read the full article at: World Politics Review