In the Central African Republic, the scale of the humanitarian crisis is undeniable; the threat of even greater escalation of violence and chaos is real. And there is a consensus that greater international action is essential.
But the questions of who does what when, and who pays, remain unanswered. France is sending additional troops to reinforce the African peacekeeping force now in place, but the processes for funding and coordinating African Union and United Nations multilateral actions are still in slowmotion mode.
The scenario seems familiar. There are multiple international agencies involved, including regional African groups, the African Union, and the United Nations. There is an agreed need to act. The resources involved to date are admittedly not up to the task. But, so far, at least, there is a failure to agree on and fund a more comprehensive UN presence with a clear mandate, adequate resources, and the capacity to coordinate other multilateral initiatives. The predictable outcome: action that is too little and too late, with short-term bilateral initiatives that lack full accountability to multilateral standards.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the November 25 briefing by the UN Deputy Secretary General to the Security Council, as well as an article from Inter Press Service with relevant background.
- For current news, see http://allafrica.com/centralafricanrepublic and, in French, http://fr.allafrica.com/centralafricanrepublic
- Organizations with extensive additional background and recent updates on the Central African Republic include
- Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/central-african-republic
- Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/africa/central-african-republic
- International Crisis Group http://www.crisisgroup.org / http://tinyurl.com/o94e79h An International Crisis Group report from June 2013 provides extensive background not only on recent developments but also on the preceding decade of rule by President François Bozizé, whose regime was supported in part by French and South African troops.
- UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks http://www.irinnews.org/country/cfa/central-african-republic Good summaries of recent situation on the ground.
Key UN documents on the CAR are available at http://www.securitycouncilreport.org / http://tinyurl.com/pjtj9on
For a call by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (http://fcnl.org) for the U.S. to pay the U.S. costs for UN peacekeeping in the Central African Republic, see http://tinyurl.com/oed8xcd
Confrontation could spark conflagration in Central African republic, warns Deputy Secretary-General, spelling out options for international support
25 November 2013
Deputy Secretary-General DSG/SM/727 SC/11189 AFR/2755
Department of Public Information * News and Media Division * New York
Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic today:
I thank the Council for this opportunity to brief you on the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic.
We face a profoundly important test of international solidarity and of our responsibility to prevent atrocities. A country in the heart of Africa is descending into complete chaos before our eyes. The situation requires prompt and decisive action to place protection of the people of the Central African Republic in the centre.
That is why the Secretary-General issued a strong warning to this Council last week. And that is why he has asked me to present a detailed report to you today on the findings of the Technical Assistance Mission that has recently returned from the Central African Republic, and on our observations on these findings. He has in the last few days also been in contact with African leaders who have expressed their concern of the situation and the need for a robust international response to it.
As that report shows, the country faces a desperate security situation. There is a breakdown of law and order. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination. As we see far too often, children and women are at the greatest risk. Human rights violations are mounting. The use of child soldiers is rising. Sexual violence is growing. There are widespread reports of looting, illegal checkpoints, extortion, arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions.
The Secretary-General is particularly concerned over the alarming increase in inter-communal violence. Traditional harmony among communities has been replaced by polarization and widespread horror. The manipulation of religious affiliations for political purposes has fuelled never-before-seen sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians, particularly in the north-west and southeast of the country. Former Seleka elements are deemed responsible for most human rights violations against the civilian population. Yet, we are also deeply concerned by abuses by "anti-balaka" well-organized self-defence or vigilante groups. This confrontation may develop into a conflagration.
The influence of religious leaders to prevent violence is diminishing, as the conflict has brought to light years of marginalization and discrimination against the northern, predominantly Muslim, population. I welcome the efforts by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Babacar Gaye, and the transitional authorities to establish mediation and reconciliation committees and take other steps to find practical solutions and to defuse tension in Bossangoa and elsewhere.
As recognized by the Council in resolution 2121 (2013), the human rights capacity of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office [in the Central African Republic] (BINUCA) is sorely inadequate. It is also hampered by a lack of access in the present security climate. We welcome the upcoming deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring mission, as well as a planned joint mission by the offices of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
In his report, the Secretary-General calls for urgent measures to end the pervasive impunity and to ensure accountability. I appeal to the Council to respond creatively to this end, including by considering accountability mechanisms such as a commission of inquiry and/or targeted sanctions.
At the same time, humanitarian needs are escalating. Virtually the entire population - 4.6 million people - has been affected by the emergency. One out of three people in the country is in dire need of food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter. Access to populations in need remains difficult - and funding is woefully short. The Consolidated Appeal of $195 million has received less than half of the funding required. And the needs keep rising. Our humanitarian colleagues have developed a sixpoint action plan to mobilize at the global, regional, national and local levels, and I call for an urgent response to this humanitarian crisis.
The restoration of security, law and order is the precondition for addressing the political, human rights and humanitarian problems. The capacity of the country's armed forces and security services to prevent and confront such threats is virtually non-existent. According to the Ministry of Defence, nearly 7,000 of the Forces armées centrafricaines have returned to Bangui but are neither deployed nor operational. Former Seleka units have assumed the responsibility of the national defence and security forces. Further, some 5,000 former Seleka are to be integrated into the security services.
However, there is no agreed plan or agreed budget for the reconstitution of the national security forces. The Central African Republic is becoming a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups in a region that is already suffering from conflict and instability. If this situation is left to fester, it may develop into a religious and ethnic conflict with long-standing consequences, even a civil war that could spread into neighbouring countries. It is critical for the international community and the Council to act now.
The need for decisive action is also essential for ensuring that preparations for the elections can proceed in accordance with the Transitional Charter. As reiterated by the Council and the International Contact Group, the elections should be held within 18 months of the inauguration of the Head of State of the Transition, that is, by February 2015, and we have no time to lose.
In response to Security Council resolution 2121 (2013), the Secretary-General dispatched an interagency Technical Assessment Mission to the Central African Republic from 27 October to 8 November, led by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, present here today.
The Mission was tasked to develop options for international support to the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR, (MISCA), including its possible transformation into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, subject to appropriate conditions on the ground and to the decision of the Security Council.
We thank the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), who were a critical part of the mission, and we are gratified that the African Union is represented here today by Ambassador [Adonia] Ayebare and, of course, we have the presence of the Secretary-General of ECCAS, Ahmad Allam-Mi, here today. And I also thank the authorities of the Central African Republic for welcoming the Mission. I am pleased to see them here today.
The African Union and ECCAS agree that there is an urgent need for the international community to act, and that a United Nations peacekeeping mandate with a robust mandate will be required. In recent days, the Secretary-General has had, as I mentioned earlier, productive discussions with the African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, and Ahmad Allam-Mi, to underline his deep concerns about the situation and his agreement with them that a strong peacekeeping force is needed in the Central African Republic.
While in the country, the Mission listened to a wide range of national and international stakeholders and they were unanimous in their calls for rapid action, including deployment of an effective and impartial force to protect civilians, deter human rights violations, restore security and prevent the occurrence of mass violence.
The Mission observed that, despite its best efforts, the capacity of the ECCAS-led peacekeeping force - MICOPAX [Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic] - to protect civilians is seriously limited. While the recent deployment of MICOPAX has had a deterrent effect in some locations, some contingents are perceived as siding with particular communities based on religion. MICOPAX troops are also struggling with limited logistical support - , lacking equipment and means of communication - as well as with mobility constraints.
Significant external support would therefore be required to enable MISCA to implement its mandate and stabilize the situation. The report before you presents five options for international support to MISCA:
i) bilateral and multilateral support arrangements;
ii) United Nations support funded through a trust fund in addition to bilateral and multilateral support;
iii) limited United Nations support funded through assessed and voluntary contributions, combined with bilateral and multilateral support;
iv) a comprehensive United Nations support package funded through assessed contributions; and lastly
v) the transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
A majority of those with whom the Mission met called for the fifth option, a United Nations peacekeeping operation. Support for this option has also been requested by a number of civil society organizations.
The transformation of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation, with an estimated strength of 6,000 troops and 1,700 police personnel, would lay the foundation for transparent, accountable and resilient institutions. A United Nations peacekeeping operation would ensure a multidimensional, integrated approach and enhance the international community's ability to apply political leverage, we would hope.
Since the Mission was deployed and the Secretary-General's report before you was issued, the Head of State of the Transition has written to inform the Secretary-General of his request for assistance from France. The Head of State of the Transition has characterized the current situation as a threat to international peace and security.
The virtual meltdown in the Central African Republic requires a coherent, integrated and multidimensional response, which will address both the root causes and the present manifestations of the crisis. In the Secretary-General's assessment, the response must be commensurate with the complexity of the crisis and the desperate protection needs of the population. It must be robust and prevent what has a high potential to result in widespread atrocities.
The Secretary-General has recently renewed the commitment of the United Nations to uphold our responsibilities whenever there is a threat of serious and large-scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. He is committed to bringing to the attention of the appropriate United Nations bodies such serious violations, in particular when national authorities are unable to respond. Reporting to you today is part of this commitment to place Rights Up Front fundamentally laid down in the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We believe that a United Nations peacekeeping operation will be needed in the Central African Republic. However, the transfer of MISCA into a United Nations peacekeeping operation would require some lead time for necessary preparations. We therefore urge the international community to now support MISCA in as comprehensive and predictable manner as possible, but to also begin considering the option of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
The people of the Central African Republic have hardly ever had the opportunity to fully experience peace and security. They need our help. Some call this a forgotten crisis. The world is haunted by the horrors of crises spiralling into atrocities. We have watched from a distance.
The United Nations, the African Union, ECCAS and the Central African Republic authorities all recognize the urgency to stop this crisis from escalating beyond control.
It is now for the Council to decide how it can best contribute to this goal.
Central African Republic: Calls Mount for UN Force in Central African Republic
by Samuel Oakford, 26 November 2013
Inter Press Service http://allafrica.com/stories/201311260206.html
United Nations - France has said it will circulate a Security Council draft resolution Monday night that would create a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, as violence in its former colony threatens to morph into an ethnic conflict.
Earlier in the day, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who last week said conditions in the country "verged on genocide," announced France would triple its troop presence there to 1200, bolstering 2,500 regional African troops who have been largely helpless to stem increasingly anarchic conditions.
"There are no more state security services in Bangui or the rest of the country," said Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director at the International Crisis Group. People are left to themselves - only Churches can offer anything."
Since fighting began nearly two years ago, 400,000 people have been internally displaced.
In March, Seleka, a loose-knit coalition of rebel groups from the country's Muslim north, captured the capital, Bangui, and forced the president, François Bozizé, who rebels accused of failing to abide by previous peace agreements, to flee the country.
The rebel's leader Michel Djotodia was appointed interim president, becoming the first Muslim to hold the office.
But Djotodia's announcement in September that Seleka would be disbanded set off prolonged bouts of looting and violence committed by disgruntled rebels.
Amnesty International reports that since Bozizé's overthrow, the number of militants identifying as Seleka has actually increased from 5,000 to 20,000.
And Human Rights Watch Monday accused a Seleka commander of explicitly killing civilians in a Nov. 10 attack in Camp Bangui.
"Attacks like these on populated areas are causing massive devastation and fear among the population of the Central African Republic," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Last week, the United States pledged 40 million dollars to prop up the regional force that has been holed up in Bangui for months.
Though the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) has plans to increase its numbers from 2,500 to 3,600, leaders in the region are convinced little can be done without the authorisation of a U.N. peacekeeping operation.
Recent reports of attacks on mosques and churches are stirring echoes of times when the U.N. has been slow to prevent genocide.
Following an internal report highlighting the U.N.'s inaction during the final months of civil war in Sri Lanka, the U.N.'s response in the Central African Republic will be seen as a test of promises to act earlier and more decisively to prevent genocide.
Muslims, who dominate Seleka, make up only 15 percent of the Central African Republic.
The conflict comes after "years of marginalisation and discrimination of Muslims in the northwest" of the country, said U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson.
Reports claim that elements of Seleka speak neither Songo nor French, indicating they may have come from neighbouring countries such as Sudan or Chad.
In many parts of the country, members of the Christian majority have responded to the violence by creating their own militias, known as "anti-balaka", or anti-machetes.
"There were several clashes between Seleka and the population this week," Vircoulon told IPS. "The African peacekeepers retreated, they cannot prevent them."
Though the country has a long history of coups and rebellions, religion has not reared its head to such a degree - as it has in the rest of the Sahel - until now.
"This did not start as a religious conflict," said Phillip Bolopion, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. "Neither party had a religious agenda."
As fighting picks up, younger and younger Central Africans are being pulled into the ranks on both sides. UNICEF estimates there are currently 6,000 child soldiers fighting in the country.
Speaking to the Security Council, Eliasson called the suffering "beyond imaginable" and said the U.N. had to act in order to "prevent atrocities."
But very little information makes its way out of the country, where NGOs are thin on the ground.
Thousands of refugees have fled from major cities into the bush where they are susceptible to malaria and are dying from treatable diarrhea.
Until semblance of order is restored, those who have fled are expected to die in increasing numbers.
"Part of the problem is we don't know anything," Bolopion told IPS.
Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he supported a U.N. peacekeeping force of 6,000 troops. But French representative Gérard Araud told reporters the secretary-general's office would require up to three months to compile a plan of action, pushing into March.
That timeframe leaves many wondering what role France will play in the interim, less than a year after it launched a military operation in Mali to dislodge extremists who had created a de-facto state in the north of the country.