UPDATE: As expected, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to give a UN mandate to the African Union force in CAR, the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), and authorize French support for this force. France said it would begin bolstering MISCA and its existing contingent in CAR immediately following the passage of Security Council Resolution 2127.
Anti-government forces launched attacks in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, today. The country’s current “interm” President Michel Djotodia, who’s seized power in March of this year, blamed the violence on forces loyal to the ousted former President Francois Bozize. However, Bangui, along with much of the rest of the country, has experienced significant violence and lawlessness since Djotodia took control.
This lack of functioning state institutions and an inability or unwillingness by Djotodia to control members of the rebel group that thrust him into power have contributed to virtual anarchy in the country. Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka rebel group following his assumption of role of President, but rebels have effectively refused to demobilize and now control much of the capital’s outlying areas. The rebels have also been blamed for violence and looting, including what has been described as “systematic looting” of medical facilities and schools. The situation has also given rise to sectarian blodshed between Muslims and Christians. The Seleka rebel group represented Muslims from the country’s east, while the western portion of the country has a higher Christian population. Christian militias have formed in response to ex-Seleka activities, calling themselves “anti-balaka.” Djotodia has denied the existence of sectarian violence or the possibility for genocide.
Whether the group responsible for today’s attack was truly loyal to Bozize or simply against the current regime is unclear. It is also speculated that the attack hoped to change the balance of power in the capital ahead of increased French intervention in the country. The UN Security Council is reported to vote soon on whether to allow an expanded French contingent to join African peacekeepers already in the country. It is unlikely that the UNSC will deny the request. French authorities have said that if and when the approval comes, their movement into CAR will be rapid. At the end of last month a French warship, the amphibious assault ship FRS Dixmude, docked in Cameroon and unloaded French forces and their equipment. These troops have since been reported to have joined Cameroonian troops on their border with CAR, which has also been a flashpoint since the upheaval earlier this year. These troops would be able to rapidly move into CAR if ordered to do so. At the end of November, French forces already in CAR were also said to be working to expand the capability of the airport in Bangui to support such an intervention.