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Central African Republic: Better Late Than Never
Central African Republic: Better Late Than Never
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
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
Briefing 96 / Africa

Central African Republic: Better Late Than Never

As the Central African Republic (CAR) stares into an abyss of potentially appalling proportions, the international community must focus on the quickest, most decisive means of restoring security to its population.

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I. Overview

Over nine months, the weak Central African Republic (CAR) state has collapsed, triggering a serious humanitarian crisis, with 400,000 displaced and nearly half the population in need of assistance. The transitional government and the regional security force have failed to prevent a descent into chaos in urban areas, in particular Bangui, as well as in the countryside. After months of “wait-and-see” and following deadly clashes, the international community now realises it cannot afford another collapsed state in Africa. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is deteriorating at a much faster pace than the international response is mobilising, and Bangui is vulnerable to a total breakdown in law and order. The UN Security Council should immediately provide a Chapter VII mandate to the new African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA), supported by French troops, to launch an operation to secure Bangui that should then be extended to other cities. Subsequently, religious reconciliation should be prioritised and stabilisation measures adopted.

The risk of the CAR becoming ungovernable that Crisis Group highlighted in June 2013 is now real. The Seleka, a loose coalition of armed groups that took power in a March 2013 coup, has splintered into multiple armed factions, whose thuggery has triggered violent reactions among the population. Further, the conflict has taken on a religious undercurrent between the predominantly Muslim Seleka and Christian self-defence groups.

The CAR faces a number of major challenges: in the short term, restoring law and order and providing immediate humanitarian aid; in the medium term, ensuring that the eighteen-month transition agreed to by the Seleka leaders and other political actors is managed in an effective and sustainable manner; and in the long term, rebuilding the state. Successful transition and reconstruction can only be achieved if minimum security conditions are met. Instability has already spilled over the Cameroon border, and the combination of religious tensions and powerless transitional authorities is the perfect recipe for further deadly clashes between local populations and the various Seleka factions, especially in Bangui.

The current stabilisation effort (deployment of an African Union peacekeeping mission, made up of troops from a 2008 mission) is not working. Following the UN’s technical assessment mission in October 2013 and France’s recent decision to increase its troops in Bangui, there is a growing consensus that a more robust, better-resourced emergency response is needed. The UN Security Council is preparing a resolution that needs to be adopted promptly.

Concurrently, the following short-term measures are required:

  • The Security Council should authorise, under a UN Chapter VII (obligatory on all member states) resolution, MISCA, supported by French forces, to take all necessary means to help stabilise the situation. Its immediate and primary focus should be on restoring law and order, protecting civilians, providing humanitarian relief and documenting human rights abuses. Other countries should also provide logistical (including transportation) and intelligence support in coordination with France and the African Union.
  • The AU-led forces under MISCA and French forces already on the ground should be reinforced immediately, and together with the very few effective national security forces, should restore law and order in Bangui, including by establishing control of all roads into and out of the city; and helping elements of the national police that have already returned to some police stations previously occupied by Seleka fighters.
  • Once Bangui is secured, the AU-led forces under MISCA and the French should deploy to where fighting between Seleka and self-defence groups is occurring and where tension between Christians and Muslims is high. They should also secure the major routes, such as that connecting Bangui with the Cameroon border.
  • The Security Council, after adopting the Chapter VII resolution, should work to ensure the rapid provision of additional resources – including logistics and the requisite capabilities to conduct night patrols – to ensure MISCA has full operational capacity. Simultaneously, the AU and EU should quickly agree on funding for the salaries of MISCA troops.

The following mid-term measures are then required:

  • The UN and donors should support inter-religious dialogue and implement urgent reconstruction projects, particularly in cities where fighting has occurred and where Christians and Muslims are living separately. 
  • Other priorities are to launch the first phase – gathering and disarming – of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) program for Seleka combatants; to establish a team to investigate the plundering of natural resources; to support the mixed commission of inquiry set up by the transitional authorities; and to quickly deploy local reconstruction teams.

The Security Council should continue to follow the CAR situation closely, and give serious consideration to transition MISCA into an enhanced UN-led multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation when necessary and appropriate. Improving security in the capital and in the worst-affected provinces, returning to normalcy in the main cities and resuming road traffic and trade between Bangui and the provinces could pave the way for a successful transition in the medium term. For this to happen, as Crisis Group’s June report recommended, a number of other steps remain relevant, among them the dispatch of a UN electoral assessment mission, security sector reform and public finance reform. But this is not today’s concern: as CAR stares into an abyss of potentially appalling proportions, the focus must remain squarely on the quickest, most decisive means of restoring security.

Nairobi/Brussels, 2 December 2013

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