Tag Archives: MISCA

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.

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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.

UN Authorizes Expansion to Peacekeeping Mission in CAR

The United Nations Security Council today unanimously adopted a new resolution regarding the crisis in Central African Republic.  Among the provisions was to provide a UN mandate to the European Union’s planned addition to international peacekeeping efforts in the country.  The new mandate will allow the EU to send five hundred personnel to help provide stability as the country attempts to move past its current crisis, which has killed an untold number and resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

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

However, there are concerns that the EU’s new contingent will still not be enough to stabilize the situation.  France’s ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said that the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) is now considered too small to deal with a situation he called “very, very dire”.  The African Union recently approved expanding the size of MISCA to some six thousand personnel.  France currently has some sixteen hundred personnel in CAR.  So far, it has been reported that Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Poland have stepped forward to contribute to the UN mission.  All three countries are also NATO members and all have contributed to other international military missions, notably NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Military intervention is also only one component of the strategy.  The UNSC’s new resolution also extended the mandate of the UN’s peacebuilding office in CAR, as well as authorizing the use of travel bans and assets freezes as targeted measures.  No specific entities were named in the resolution, but the United States had previously made a similarly broad threat to target any individuals or groups standing in the way of peace and reconciliation in the country.

Peace and reconciliation are of paramount concern.  The country’s new Interim President, , has called for communities to band together to end the violence.  However, on the day of her inauguration, nominally Christian militias, known as anti-balaka, attacked and looted members of the Muslim population in the capital Bangui, seen as support former members of the Seleka rebel movement.  The rebels ousted President Francois Bozize last March, which eventually led to the current crisis.  As peacekeepers attempted to evacuate former Seleka rebels in a bid to restore order in the capital, Muslims also fled, fearing more reprisals.

Also worrisome is that some of the former rebels who agreed to be evacuated have since disappeared, possibly to regroup and launch a new insurgency.  The lack of any clearly defined hierarchy and command structure among former rebels has meant that securing ceasefires and other agreements has been difficult.  It is likely that former rebels will take a number of different paths toward any new relationship with the current transitional government.

African Nations Increasingly Involved in Interventions on the Continent

Already well noted elsewhere, African nations are becoming increasingly more willing and able to engage in military interventions to respond to crises on the continent.  This is especially true when talking about neighboring countries, who may fear spillover of refugees, violence, and other negative effects. In keeping this trend, the African Union announced today that Ethiopian forces will formally become a part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  The four thousand Ethiopian troops will be responsible for the regions of Gedo, Bay, and Bakool in the southwestern portion of the country and will help AMISOM reach its new mandated size of twenty-two thousand personnel.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013.  One can see the decline in areas reported to be under Al-Shabaab control.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013.

Ethiopia has a long history of military confrontation with Somalia, notably the war over the status of the Ogaden region.  Fearing spillover from a rise in violence in the early 2000s, Ethiopia intervened in 2006 on behalf of the UN-backed Somali government to curb the rise of the Supreme Islamic Courts Union.  Ethiopian forces, along with warlords nominally supporting the UN-backed Somali government, dispersed the ICU.  This in turn led to the rise of the Al-Shabaab militant group, who began a concerted campaign against Ethiopian forces, eventually leading to their withdrawal and replacement with AMISOM.

However, border skirmishing continued and Ethiopia has conducted cross border operations with the tacit support of the Somali government.  Ethiopia has also reportedly provided a base for US unmanned aerial vehicle operations over Somalia.  The integration of Ethiopian forces into AMISOM in many ways represents a formalization of the existing situation and gives them a mandate for increased operations.  This, it is hoped, will allow other AMISOM peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, the opportunity to refocus their operations against Al Shabaab.  Concerns exist, however, about whether traditional enmity between Ethiopians and Somalis may lead the formal intervention to be used as a recruitment tool for anti-government militants.

Whatever the case, Ethiopia’s new large scale intervention in Somalia is just the most recent in a series of moves by African powers to intervene in regional crises in recent weeks.  Yesterday, the US military reported that it continues to assist in the deployment of Rwandan peacekeepers to support the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA).  Last week, Uganda also admitted that its forces had intervened on behalf of the South Sudanese government and were conducting operations against rebel forces.  Uganda has also been a key component of US operations to airlift peacekeepers into CAR and has reportedly established a rapid response center within its Army to better respond itself to regional crises.  African Nations are also picking and choosing their interventions, with Kenya, for instance, saying it would not contribute forces to the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  Kenya, a major contributor to AMISOM, said it would push for a diplomatic solution in the world’s youngest country.

Crises Continue in CAR, South Sudan

Central African Republic’s Transitional National Council (TNC), in a very public election attended by foreign observers and members of the media, picked the woman currently serving as the mayor of the country’s capital as the next interim President.  Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza now becomes the country’s first female president and its latest hope for helping to end the crisis in the country since the violent overthrow of President Francois Bozize by rebels last March.  Samba-Panza received seventy-five votes from the TNC, significantly more than her nearest rival, Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba, who received fifty-three votes.  There is a hope that Samba-Panza, who had a successful private sector career before being appointed Mayor of Bangui last year, would provide a break from the country’s previous political establishment.

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

Whoever secured the TNC’s backing had their work cut out for them, with the last interim President and former rebel leader, Michel Djotodia having gone into exile and leaving the country in the midst of violence and uncertainty.  French and African Union forces continue to try and help maintain law and order, and the US and others continue to help rush peacekeepers into the country to support the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA).  The European Union has also announced that after significant lobbying by France it will be contributing its own peacekeeping force to the country, along with increased humanitarian aid.  This will be the EU’s first land operation since 2008 when it deployed a force to the Chad-CAR border.  In addition to fighting inside CAR, the upheaval has threatened neighboring countries, most notably Cameroon, where there were reports today of violence along the border.  Codebook: Africa has previously pointed out the threat of spillover from CAR to Cameroon.

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

Cameroon has also been threatened by violence in neighboring South Sudan, where a crisis also continues.  Fighting in the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state resulted in thirty-four people sheltering inside a facility operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) being wounded by stray bullets.  UNMISS says that it is sheltering over twenty-thousand individuals in Malakal and more than seventy-thousand in total at facilities across the country.  The UN Security Council has approved the expansion of the UNMISS mission to help protect civilians from the violence.  Fighting continues between the government and rebels, in spite of peace talks.  Rebels were previously calling just for the release of those accused by the government of attempting a coup in December before starting negotiations, but are now also calling for Ugandan forces to leave the country.

Last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted that forces from the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) were fighting alongside South Sudanese government forces against rebels and that some UPDF troops had died in operations there.  Previously, President Museveni’s administration had said that UPDF troops were working to help evacuate civilians.

US Military Continues to Support Peacekeepers in CAR

The US is continuing efforts to support for French forces and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) in Central Africa Republic.  Today, US Army Africa (USARAF) announced that it had just completed the deployment of a contingent of French forces in support of that country’s intervention in CAR, codenamed Operation Sangaris.  Yesterday, it was also announced that over the next twenty days, a battalion of peacekeepers from the Rwandan Defense Forces would be airlifted into CAR’s capital, Bangui.  Peacekeeping forces have been struggling to maintain order in Bangui and elsewhere as the country’s violent crisis continues.  The recent resignation of the country’s interim president and the appointment of a new one has had certain positive effects, but the UN describes the security situation in the country, where almost a million remain displaced, as “calm but unpredictable.”  The UN also reported yesterday that only six percent of its appeal for almost two hundred and fifty million US dollars in humanitarian aid had been funded.  The UN says it needs that funding to prevent a ease what it describes as “mega-tragedy” in CAR.

USAF personnel unload equipment belonging to SETAF's Headquarters Support Company from a C-130 aircraft in Central African Republic's capital Bangui on December 20th, 2013.

USAF personnel unload equipment belonging to SETAF’s Headquarters Support Company from a C-130 aircraft in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on December 20th, 2013.

The involvement of USARAF began with little fanfare in mid-December 2013.  Since December, USARAF has taken on the role of coordinating the efforts between the US military services (including Special Operations Command Africa), the French, and African nations contributing to MISCA.  This included participation in the airlift of Burundian peacekeepers last year, codenamed Operation Echo Casemate, which the US Department of Defense announced had been concluded on December 30th.  It is unclear whether these continuing operations are part of Operation Echo Casemate or a new named operation.

The US Army Africa Forward Command Element, seen here being demonstrated in 2012, is a self-contained, mobile command post capable of worldwide communications and can deploy within 72 hours.

The US Army Africa Forward Command Element, a portion of which is seen here being demonstrated in 2012, is a self-contained, mobile command post capable of worldwide communications and can deploy within 72 hours.

Also, as part of the initial effort in December, C-130s of the US Air Force’s 37th Airlift Squadron deployed Army elements, including personnel and equipment from the Southern European Task Force’s (SETAF) Headquarters Support Company.  When US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was created, SETAF was designated as the US Army component for the new command, with the SETAF commander also being designated as the USARAF commander.  Though unconfirmed, it is likely that the US Army elements in Bangui have made use at least in part of USARAF’s rapidly deployable command post capabilities.  In 2011, USARAF gained an Early Entry Command Post (EECP) capability, and in 2012 gained a rapidly deployable Forward Command Post (FCP) capability, specifically intended for rapid deployment via C-130 in response to crises in its area of responsibility.  USARAF is currently conducting its efforts from a Current Operations Information Center (COIC), but the location of this is unclear.  It is very possible that this operations center is at the Command’s headquarters in Vicenza, Italy, while forward command elements are deployed to Bangui and possibly elsewhere.

Since the beginning of 2013, the US has found itself well equipped and positioned to assist in the rapid deployment of French and African peacekeepers into first Mali, and now into CAR.  The US has focused on providing this sort of logistics assistance rather than on providing forces to contribute directly to the mission on the ground in these countries.  Even with regards to the crisis in South Sudan, deployed US forces have focused mostly on evacuating US and other foreign nationals and protecting diplomatic facilities.

Armed Groups Declare Truce in CAR

Yesterday, nominally Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and nominally Christian members of so-called anti-balaka groups in the Bimbo area of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic declared a truce.  The announcement came in a public ceremony that saw members of the two factions put down their weapons, embrace each other, and ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.  The agreement reportedly came after mediation between the two sides by French forces.  It is clearly events like this that led CAR’s new interim leader, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, to declare today that the country’s recent crisis is now over.

Map of Central African Republic

Map of Central African Republic

There is no guarantee, however, that this will be the case.  The country’s Transitional National Council has been given two weeks to decide on a new interim president, who will lead the country until elections can be held.  Nguendet is the speaker of this assembly, which is also the assembly that voted on Michel Djotodia as interim president last April.  Djotodia was the leader of the Seleka rebel group who violently ousted President Francois Bozize in March 2013.  His inability to control former militants was likely the most significant reason for the most recent explosion of violence.  Djotodia resigned the presidency last week following a recent meeting of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) regional bloc.  Reports followed that Djotodia then left for exile in Benin.  Bozize has also since gone into self-imposed exile.  The TNC says it will be looking for a unifying figure.

It remains to be seen if one can be found.  In addition, the current constitution bars the person selected from standing in future presidential elections, which CAR is currently planning for early 2015, despite calls from the French and others to hold them before the end of this year.  The United Nations, which has given a formal mandate to French forces and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), has also warned about the long term threat of inter-communal violence in the country.  Inter-communal tensions were one of the root causes of the overthrow of Bozize, who had made a deal with the Seleka rebel movement, which the rebels subsequently said was not honored.  Peacekeepers, who  have already had a checkered record in this crisis, are likely to remain in the country for the foreseeable future.  The UN estimates over two million people are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the crisis and almost one million of them have been driven from their homes.