Tag Archives: peacekeeping

US Army Led Annual Western Accord Exercise Last Month

Last month, US Army Africa (USARAF) led the annual Western Accord Exercise in Dakar, Senegal. Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment also joined Army soldiers for the event. Western Accord 14 centered around developing partner abilities to plan, deploy, employ, sustain, and redeploy a rapid deployment force in response to a regional crisis.

Senegalese troops train with US forces during Western Accord 14 in June 2014.

Senegalese troops train with US forces during Western Accord 14 in June 2014.

Western Accord is designed to enhance American military partnerships with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). There are currently fifteen ECOWAS members:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Gambia and Guinea Bissau did not participate in Western Accord 14. Forces from France and the Netherlands.

Representatives of the United Nations were also present at the exercise. Western Accord 14 was the first iteration of the exercise to incorporate UN personnel and non-governmental organizations to better simulate complex peacekeeping operations in the region. ECOWAS members such as Nigeria are regular contributors to UN and African Union peacekeeping efforts across the continent and around the world.

In addition, this particular training event is part of a series of exercises run every year by USARAF. The other exercises in the series include Northern Accord, Southern Accord, and Eastern Accord. Also, a regular exercise in central Africa, focusing on airdrop capabilities, was renamed Central Accord this year, bringing it in line with the rest of the Accord Series exercises.

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.

International Force Will Deploy to South Sudan

Yesterday, East African heads of state announced their decision to deploy an international force to South Sudan starting April in an attempt to stem the conflict there. Troops will reportedly come from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, all of whom are frequent particpiants in other African peacekeeping operations. Djibouti, which also participates in peacekeeping operations on the continent, may also contribute forces to this new mission. Ugandan troops, who intervened on behalf of the South Sudanese government in January, have said they will withdraw after the new force is deployed.

A map showing internally displaced persons in South Sudan and refugees in neighboring countries, from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs South Sudan Crisis Situation Report No. 26, dated 10 March 2014

A map showing internally displaced persons in South Sudan and refugees in neighboring countries, from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs South Sudan Crisis Situation Report No. 26, dated 10 March 2014

The force will operate under a mandate from the the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African economic bloc, which has been mediating talks in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to try and bring an end to South Sudan’s crisis. The crisis erupted last December following a reported coup attempt. The government subsequently implicated a number of opposition political figures, most notably Riek Machar, as having been behind the attempted overthrow. Riek Machar announced a formal “resistance movement” in February and the country is effectively in a state of civil war.

The IGAD-sponsored talks did produce a ceasefire agreement in January, but this has been repeatedly violated. A second phase of talks to find a lasting political solution to the crisis has stalled. One of the main rebel demands is the release of individuals detained in connection with the coup. South Sudan is proceeding with their treason charges against eleven individuals, and a court has demanded that four individuals previously released and deported to Kenya return to face the indictments.

South Sudan has also accused the UN mission in the country, UNMISS, of collaborating with rebel forces. Last week, South Sudanese forces seized weapons and ammunition from a UN convoy, which UNMISS said had mistakenly been loaded in with humanitarian supplies. UNMISS also denied that landmines were among the munitions and has called on the South Sudanese government to respect their personnel and existing agreements. UNMISS is providing humanitarian assistance and shelter to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. The UN also estimates that millions in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Regional Bloc Looks at Sending Peacekeepers to South Sudan as Violence Continues

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African economic bloc that has been hosting peace talks over South Sudan, said today that its members were prepared to send forces to to the country to stabilize the situation. This comes as peace talks were put on hold yesterday, after the parties failed to make any progress on a lasting settlement to the country’s crisis. IGAD hopes the talks will resume later this month.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

It is not clear which IGAD members would be offering to deploy troops. Uganda, which is a member of the organization, already deployed troops to the country. Those forces, however, were sent to support the government rather than act as an independent force. The Ugandan intervention became a major point of contention between parties in South Sudan, as well as among IGAD members. Last Month, Uganda announced that it would begin a phased withdrawal of its forces in April, with the understanding being that they would be replaced by other forces, hopefully with an African Union or United Nations mandate, or both. IGAD is reportedly consulting with both the AU and the UN about the details of its proposed force.

Members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response board a KC-130J at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as they prepare to return to their base in Spain on 1 March 2014.

Members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response board a KC-130J at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as they prepare to return to their base in Spain on 1 March 2014. SPMAGTF-CR had been forward deployed to Djibouti to be able to better respond to the crisis in South Sudan.

At this point, it does appear that there is a need for an independent international force in South Sudan. Despite the ongoing talks and a ceasefire agreement in January, violence in South Sudan has continued, as government forces and rebels jockey for control of important cities. The crisis may have stabilized to a degree, however, as the US has begun removing military forces it had deployed to help evacuate American citizens and protect diplomatic facilities. It is also possible that with the end of the evacuations and the relocation of certain diplomatic functions outside the country, that there is just no further reason for them being forward deployed in the region. The latter is perhaps more likely given reports of fighting in the capital.

There have been reports of atrocities on both sides after violence erupted last December following a reported coup attempt. Government negotiators and opposition representatives have accused each other of preventing peace talks, being held in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, from moving forward. The major stumbling blocks surround the future of the country’s current leadership, the continued detention of individuals accused of attempting to overthrow the government, and the charges brought against opposition political figures, who have since gone into hiding.

The continued crisis has had serious humanitarian impacts as well. The UN estimates that over seven hundred thousand have been displaced internally by the fighting, and that over a hundred thousand have fled to neighboring countries. The UN also believes that over three million people inside the country are in need of humanitarian assistance. The crisis has made it hard for international organizations to conduct independent assessments, however. The UN has had difficulty securing funding from its members and there has been evidence of diversion of aid to combatants, as well. The UN has also largely refrained from estimating how many people might have been killed since December.

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.

More Ceasefire Violations in South Sudan

South Sudanese forces and rebels clashed in Upper Nile state yesterday, with both sides claiming control of the state capital Malakal today.  The fighting was said to be the most significant violation of a ceasefire agreement, signed by government and rebel representatives in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, since that agreement came into force at the end of January.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

The fighting comes as the delegations in Addis Ababa attempt to iron out the second phase of a peace process.  This has been complicated by numerous factors, including legal proceedings against some members of the opposition movement, opposition leader Riek Machar’s announcement of open resistance to the government, and an intervention by Ugandan troops on behalf of the South Sudanese government.

The matter of Ugandan troops has been particularly troublesome for the peace process.  The peace talks in Addis Ababa are sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Uganda is a member.  South Sudan is also Uganda’s primary export market.  Other IGAD members, as well as international actors like the United States, have called on Ugandan forces to withdraw from the conflict.  However, it is possible to suggest that the intervention may have been key in stabilizing the situation and pushing the rebel delegation to negotiate.  Given the current status of the ceasefire agreement, that may be a moot point.

Whatever the case, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa announced yesterday that there would be a phased withdrawal of Ugandan forces, starting in April, ahead of the deployment of an African-led peacekeeping force to the country. However, the exact timeline for the deployment of that force, the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), may be delayed.  ACIRC is currently in its formative stages.  When it is fully operational, ACIRC is to provide the African Union with a force capable of rapidly responding to crises across the continent.

Perhaps more worrisome is that the fighting in Malakal, which took place near a facility operated by the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), reportedly touched off a riot inside the facility between internally displaced persons of different ethnic groups.  Since the conflict began last December, tens of thousands of those fleeing the violence have sought shelter in and around UNMISS facilities.  These facilities have subsequently been the target of violence and suspicion.

The UN estimates that over seven hundred thousands individuals are displaced internally and that over one hundred and fifty thousand have fled to neighboring countries.  A significant portion of the population is also in need of humanitarian assistance.  The UN’s Crisis Response Plan is only 18.5 percent funded, however.  The UN continues to appeal for greater international engagement.