Central African Republic: The International Options for 2014
Central African Republic: The International Options for 2014
Fixing the army is key for CAR’s stability
Fixing the army is key for CAR’s stability
Commentary / Africa 3 minutes

Central African Republic: The International Options for 2014

The visit of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to the Central African Republic today ensured ample publicity for the CAR crisis and renewed attention to both the international role in addressing it and to American involvement specifically. But the basic options for the international community remain roughly the same.

What are those options? Responsibility for the African peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic (MISCA) has now been officially transferred from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to the African Union (AU). To date, this force’s lack of credibility has seriously undermined management of the crisis; its shortcomings led, by default, to the French military intervention earlier this month.

Moves to strengthen MISCA’s predecessor, MICOPAX, came too late, and MISCA faces the same problems: a chronic lack of numbers, and announcements not put into practice (the Ndjamena summit in April 2013 decided to increase MICOPAX numbers to 2,000 by the end of May 2013; a further increase to 6,000 troops was agreed after the Elysée summit at the beginning of December). This rush to increase the force’s size diverted attention from the need to assess the competence of its commanders and troops, its logistical support and, in particular, the observance of its mandate and rules of engagement.

The serious problem of recruiting for the MISCA could be partly solved with the appearance of new African contributors. In addition to Burundi, which is currently deploying an 850-strong contingent with the assistance of the U.S. military, Rwanda and Egypt have both offered to contribute troops. The Rwandans have offered 850 men but are waiting for the AU to indicate precisely the nature of the forces required and their zone of intervention. The Egyptians have offered to contribute troops but it is uncertain whether the AU, which has suspended Egypt from membership, will take up this offer.

The U.S. has budgeted up to $101 million to help the African forces and France reestablish security in the CAR. After initially setting aside $40 million for MISCA in November 2013, President Barack Obama ordered the release of a further $60 million of military aid for foreign troops stationed in the CAR. Concurrent with Ambassador Power’s visit to Bangui, the White House announced an additional $15 million in humanitarian aid and gave more specifics on how its commitments, now totalling almost $150 million, would be spent. The White House also indicated the U.S. is considering reopening its embassy in Bangui.

In addition to bilateral logistical aid, the AU is expecting further financial aid to sustain the mission. This will come from the European Union (EU), which has confirmed an allocation of €50 million for the MISCA, and from the new UN trust fund.

Although the AU has received an initial one-year mandate, to be reviewed after six months, article 47 of resolution 2127 raises the possibility of a UN mission in 2014. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to present options in three months, though this might be speeded up. Meanwhile, an evaluation mission will determine whether conditions in the field make it feasible to deploy a peacekeeping mission. The UN and the AU will have to decide between two institutional arrangements: either convert the MISCA into a UN operation or create a hybrid mission like UNAMID (in Darfur). Either option would test the capacity of the UN and AU to cooperate.

In solidarity, several European countries have offered logistical support to the French Operation Sangaris and others might also send troops. The EU has discarded the option of deploying its rapid-reaction force (“battle group”) for the moment. However, that does not mean that the EU will necessarily restrict itself to funding the African mission. Deployment of its rapid-reaction force could be on the agenda again at the beginning of 2014 when Greece succeeds Britain as commander of the force.

A complex multilateral partnership is therefore taking shape to support African and French forces in 2014. Whatever the extent of the support provided to these two missions, there will be no substitute for defining a strategy capable of reaching a political settlement to the CAR crisis. The international community will need to address this issue before it organises a donors’ conference to rebuild this stricken country. It is for the international monitoring committee chaired by Congo-Brazzaville to get on with the job of working out such a political settlement.

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