Tag Archives: CAR

UN Security Council Approves Peacekeeping Force for CAR

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2149, which approves the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force in Central African Republic. The resolution provides for a force of approximately twelve thousand personnel under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, including some ten thousand troops and almost two thousand police. The crisis in CAR has left thousands dead, displaced almost seven hundred thousand people internally, and forced almost three hundred thousand to flee the country. The UN estimates that over two million people, approximately half of the country’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA's Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA’s Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

The decision comes as the African Union’s African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA), support by French forces, continues to struggle with violence in the country. MISCA, which is already operating with a UN mandate, had some six-thousand personnel at the beginning of last week. Last Friday, Chadian forces pulled out of the country following clashes in the capital Bangui in which ten people were killed. Chadian troops claimed they were acting in self defense, but other reports suggested they had fired indiscriminately into a crowd. This is not the first time Chadian peacekeepers have been involved in questionable incidents or had been accused of complicity with ex-Seleka rebels. The loss of the eight-hundred and fifty-man contingent was a significant blow to MISCA.

MISCA is scheduled to turn over responsibility for peacekeeping to the new UN force, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA), by 15 September 2014. There is no word yet what countries might step forward to provide MINUSCA with the additional forces it requires. Many African nations are already participating in the effort, as well as efforts elsewhere. France, who has been a major contributor to peacekeeping efforts on the continent and who has been in CAR since the beginning of the year as part of their Operation Sangaris, has had only limited success in rallying the rest of the European Union to contribute forces. In January, the EU approved the deployment of a small five-hundred strong force to the country. The force, dubbed EUFOR RCA (EU Force République Centrafricaine) was eventually expanded to one thousand personnel, but was delayed and only arrived in the country last week.

The United States has also supported the efforts in CAR, as part of Operation Echo Casemate. However, so far this support has been limited to logistical support and the airlifting of additional African peacekeeping forces. The US will likely continue to provide this support to the expanded UN mission, but there is no indication that any American troops will deploy to the country to take a more active part in the peacekeeping mission.

France Opposes Central African Republic Partition

French President Francois Hollande said today that the primary mission for his country’s forces in Central African Republic is to prevent a de facto partition there. President Hollande made the remarks to French troops in CAR’s capital Bangui.  He is on his second visit to the embattled country in three months.  France has some two thousand personnel in the country as part of Operation Sangaris, an intervention that began last December.

French troops patrol in Central African Republic with African forces from the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), 24 February 2014

French troops patrol in Central African Republic with African forces from the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), 24 February 2014

The visit comes just days after France’s parliament voted to extend the duration of the operation.  Parliamentarians voted for the extension despite some criticizing President Hollande for underestimating the situation there. Two French soldiers have been killed as international peacekeepers try to disarm militias and stem the violence.

CAR has been locked in crisis since nominally Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize last March. Their leader, Michel Djotodia formally disbanded the group after being named Interim President, but former rebels continued to operate with virtual impunity.

Violence has exploded, however, following Djotodia’s resignation and subsequent departure into exile in January. International forces, operating in CAR under a UN mandate, have been unable to prevent a string of violent reprisals against Muslim communities, especially in Bangui. Muslims have been fleeing the capital in recent weeks in the face of attacks from nominally Christian self-defense groups, collectively referred to as anti-balaka, which sprang up in response to the activities of ex-Seleka rebels.

This has in turn given rise to fears of a de facto partition of the country between the nominally Christian western portion and the nominally Muslim eastern portion.  Aid agencies have also been reportedly faced with the dilemma about whether to assist in the movement of communities away from the violence. While this might save groups from massacres at the hands of various localized armed groups, it could also be in service of what amounts to “ethnic cleansing” and reinforce fears of a split in the country. The duty to protect civilians and fears about essentially assisting in atrocities have proven continually to be difficult to balance in peacekeeping operations, including notably during UN efforts in Bosnia in the 1990s.

CAR’s new interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, has basically declared war on militias, but with accusations of complicity on the part of government security forces and the limited resources of international forces currently, there has been little movement to curtail their activities. Currently there are six thousand African peacekeepers in the country, in addition to the French forces there. The European Union has pledged additional forces, and it is hoped that the international presence in CAR will expand soon to a total of some nine-thousand personnel.

A good example of the difficulties that peacekeepers have faced came earlier this week when the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) reported the arrest of Patrick Edouard Ngaissona.  Ngaissona styles himself a “coordinator” of anti-balaka groups. However, MISCA retracted this statement yesterday, saying instead that they had actually captured a more minor anti-balaka member of the same name.  President Hollande is to meet with Interim President Samba-Panza, no doubt to discuss the issue of militias among other problems that the country faces.

French Operation in Central African Republic May Be Extended

French parliamentarians in the country’s lower legislative house voted today to extend France’s intervention in Central African Republic.  As per French law, a vote must be held on military campaigns lasting more than four months. France currently has approximately two thousand personnel in CAR, where there are also some six thousand African peacekeepers.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA's Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA’s Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

French lawmakers criticized President Francois Hollande over the intervention, despite voting to continue it.  President Hollande had promised that the intervention, codenamed Operation Sangaris, would only last six months when it began last December. The situation CAR means that the intervention is likely to continue beyond that time frame.  France has even begun shifting forces around in Africa and elsewhere in order to bolster its operation in the country.

Even these additional reinforcements have not been enough to stem rising inter-communal violence in the country. The violence stems from the violent ouster of the country’s President, Francois Bozize, last March.  Nominally Muslim Seleka rebels deposed Bozize and their leader, Michel Djotodia subsequently took power as the country’s Interim President.  Despite attempts to curtail the rebels, they operated with virtual impunity in many parts of the country, including the capital, Bangui. In response, nominally Christian communities who felt targeted by violence and criminality, formed self-defense militias, collectively referred to as anti-balaka.

Djotodia resigned his post in January and fled into exile. Anti-balaka militias have since been accused of atrocities themselves, as they conduct reprisals against former rebels and those they link to them. Despite similar efforts to disarm these militias, the violence has continued, leading to events like a mass exodus of Muslims from the capital. French and African peacekeepers have been overwhelmed trying to provide basic law and order, and France has repeatedly called on European allies and the UN to deploy additional personnel.

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon did put forward a six-point plan that included provisions for additional troops and police. French and African peacekeepers in CAR are currently operating under a UN mandate. However, it will take time for any additional forces to arrive and it is time that CAR might not have. The UN estimates that over two million people in CAR, amounting to almost half of the country’s population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.  More than seven hundred thousand have been displaced internally and almost three hundred thousand have fled into neighboring countries. There is a fear that the violence could spillover, especially into Cameroon. The crisis has also likely resulted in the deaths of thousands, but the instability has prevented any sort of accurate, independent assessment.

Central African Republic’s Violence Proving Difficult to Quell

It was reported today that attempts to disarm nominally Christian militias in Central African Republic, broadly referred to as anti-balaka, had been met with resistance.  Unsurprisingly, the anti-balaka militiamen reportedly did not wish to be disarmed by force by international peacekeepers and also demanded that efforts be made to disarm former members of the nominally Muslim Seleka rebel group.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA's Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, refugees in neighboring countries (in thousands), along with highlighting of areas of significant tensions, from OCHA’s Humanitarian Snapshot, dated 10 February 2014.

Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize last March, taking control and touching off a cycle of inter-communal violence in the country.  The anti-balaka militias had come into existence initially to provide a measure of self-defense against ex-Seleka rebels, who operated with virtual impunity under the administration of Interim President Michel Djotodia, who had led the group.  Djotodia resigned and fled into exile last month, and since then the anti-balaka militias have exacted brutal reprisals on those they accuse of being rebels or otherwise associating with them.

International peacekeepers have found themselves strained to adequately protect civilians caught in the current crisis, and there have been accusations of complicity with armed groups, notably with regards to Chad.  Government security forces have also been accused of complicity and the International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary examination into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the country.

In response to the continuing violence, France announced yesterday that it will send an additional four hundred personnel to CAR, bringing the total size of its contingent to two thousand individuals.  France’s intervention, codenamed Operation Sangaris, began last December.  The European Union also announced yesterday that it is now planning to send one thousand troops to CAR, doubling its original commitment.

There remain concerns that the additional forces will still not be enough to contain the violence.  The United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that “the United Nations and its regional partners face an urgent test” in CAR.  Secretary General Ban called on the international community to continue to work to end the crisis.  There remain few accurate estimates of the current death toll, but hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally and are in need of humanitarian assistance.  Some two-hundred and fifty thousand have also fled to neighboring countries.

CAR’s New Interim President Announces Intent to “Hunt” Militias

Central African Republic’s Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who was appointed to her post just last month, has said that nominally Christian militias, referred to collectively as anti-balaka, “have lost their sense of mission.” She suggest that as the country’s first female President the militias saw her as weak, before promising that they would be “hunted.”  The anti-balaka militias have been responsible for brutal acts of violence in the country’s capital, Bangui, in recent weeks against the city’s nominally Muslim population.

Map showing numbers of IDPs (in thousands) by state in CAR, along with a timeline of significant events, from a larger situation map for CAR produced by OCHA, dated 5 February 2014.

Map showing numbers of internally displaced persons (in thousands) by state in CAR, along with a timeline of significant events, from a larger situation map for CAR produced by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, dated 5 February 2014.

The anti-balaka militia came into being as local self-protection organizations to protect Christian communities against violence and criminality perpetrated by former members of the Seleka rebel organization.  Militia groups say they are merely exacting revenge for these crimes.

The Seleka rebels ousted the country’s leadership last March, and their leader, Michel Djotodia, was subsequently appointed as the country’s interim president.  Djotodia officially disbanded the group, but could not demobilize them.  Before resigning last month and fleeing into exile, Djotodia also sought to justify the violence committed by former Seleka rebels by suggesting it was a natural expression of revenge against the former regime.

Former Seleka fighters and anti-balaka militiamen have both been accused of serious crimes.  Last week there were reports of at least three daylight lynchings in Bangui, including at least one where uniformed members of the military were said to have been complicit.  Today, African Union peacekeepers reportedly uncovered a mass grave at a military camp occupied by former Seleka rebels.

Limited access and security concerns have prevented international organizations from independently verifying many crimes and establishing accurate estimates of how many of have been killed since fighting exploded last year.  Hundreds of thousands, however, have been driven from their homes.  Amnesty International has described the current campaign by anti-balaka militias as “ethnic cleansing.”  Some UN officials say they share this fear.  UN Secretary General warned that the country could end up experiencing a de facto partition as a result the inter-communal violence.  CAR authorities deny that this is the case, saying that it is merely a “security problem.”  Peacekeepers have also so far been unable to help quell the violence.

The UN’s World Food Program did begin airlifting food aid into the country today, in an attempt to stave off a humanitarian disaster.  Food insecurity is a major threat, and many of the individuals driven from the capital in the recent violence are said to have been merchants involved in the sale and distribution of foodstuffs.  The UN estimates that over a million people could be in need of humanitarian assistance.

New Violence in Central African Republic

Jean-Emmanuel Djarawa, identified only as a “politican” in Central Africa Republic, was killed overnight in the capital Bangui.  Djarawa was reported to have made a speech yesterday, where he called for nominally Christian militia, referred to as anti-balaka, to be “confined to the barracks,” and denounced recent violence.

A map and key facts and figures, from a Congressional Research Service report on the Crisis in Central African Republic, dated January 27th, 2014.

A map and key facts and figures, from a Congressional Research Service report on the Crisis in Central African Republic, dated January 27th, 2014.

Last week there were reports of a number of daylight instances of mob violence in Bangui, against the nominally Muslim population.  These included at least one incident where government troops were accused of being complicit. The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary examination into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the country.  The violence has displaced hundreds of thousands both internally and externally, and the UN believes that half of the country’s population requires humanitarian assistance.

Anti-balaka militia appear to be taking revenge on those they see as having been supports of the ex-Seleka rebels, who themselves acted with impunity and terrorized the capital after the ouster of the country’s President Francois Bozize last year.  The leader of the Seleka movement, Michel Djotodia, was subsequently made Interim President, before resigning and fleeing into exile last month.

Djotodia was replaced by current Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who became the country’s first female president.  She has herself called for an end to the violence, but has, like her predecessor, shown little ability to control the country’s localized militias.  Reports of truces after her appointment by the country’s Transitional National Council, were met by skepticism that they would not reflect the will of the majority of the actual individual militias, each having their own leadership.

International peacekeepers have had trouble themselves in helping to contain the violence, being accused of complicity with various factions, as well as clearly not having the required manpower to maintain law and order.  Looting was reported on the day of Interim President Samba-Panza’s inauguration, as peacekeepers were called to protect the ceremony.  There is the suggestion that looting and other theft has become a way of life due to the country’s chronic instability.

Crises in South Sudan, Central African Republic Fester

Despite various significant events in the past few weeks, crises in both South Sudan and Central African Republic continue to fester.  Both countries have continued to experience significant violence, even just this week, in spite of moves meant to promote peace and stability.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

In South Sudan, rebels accused the government of violating a ceasefire signed in January by attacking their positions near Malakal in Upper Nile state.  This is not the first time the rebels have accused the government of breaching the agreement, which is less than two weeks old.  International monitors are supposed to be monitoring the ceasefire agreement on the ground.  The allegations did come the day after Riek Machar, the defacto leader of the opposition to the government, formally announced the formation of a united resistance movement to bring various rebel factions together.

The ceasefire, brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, was intended to be the beginning to additional negotiations on ending the crisis that has displaced hundreds of thousands and killed an untold number.  The UN has experienced significant difficulties in assessing the conflict and distributing aid in many areas, including Malakal.  The allegations of ceasefire violations along with the intention of the South Sudanese government to pursue treason charges against seven individuals, have raised doubts about the viabaility of further negotiations.  Among those charged with Treason are both Riek Machar and Taban Deng, who signed the IGAD-backed ceasefire on behalf of the rebels.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

In Central African Republic, inter-communal violence also continues to rage, despite the recent appointment of a new president, who has vowed to work for peace and reconciliation, and a significant international peacekeeping presence.  The United States has also threatened the possibility of sanctions against any who would prevent efforts to end the crisis there.  As in South Sudan, the conflict has displaced a significant number of people, but it has been difficult to assess the true extent of the conflict or how many people have died as a result.

This week saw significant acts of violence in the capital Bangui, with soldiers reportedly participating in the lynching of a Muslim man by nominally Christian so-called anti-balaka militiamen.  Today it was reported that another act of mob violence had claimed the life another Muslim man as he and other Muslim residents attempted to flee the capital. Newly appointed interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has repeatedly called for a stop to such acts of sectarian violence, but may have limited tools with which to stem it.  The International Criminal Court announced today that in response to the growing evidence of both crimes against humanity and war crimes that it would be opening a preliminary examination in CAR.

CAR has a significant international peacekeeping presence as well, and UN and the African Union have sought to expand it further.  However, peacekeepers have been criticized by the locals and others of being biased toward ex-Seleka fighters.  Prior to the resignation of the previous interim President and former Seleka rebel leader Michel Djotodia, anti-balaka militia had also expressed their displeasure with the fact that international forces had not actively worked to oust him from power.  Most recently, Human Rights Watch reported that researchers in CAR had seen Chadian peacekeapers escorting ex-Seleka rebel leaders from the capital, and expressed concerns that this might indicate collusion between the two entities.  This had previously been reported with the even more worrisome detail that the fighters evacuated had subsequently gone missing.  Regardless of their true intentions and affiliations, peacekeepers have had a difficult time in CAR quelling the violence.