Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called for an extra 900 peacekeepers to be deployed in the Central African Republic. The request comes after an uptick in ethnic and religious-based violence against civilians in the country.
In a report to the United Nations Security Council, Guterres recommended an extra 900 troops be deployed to the Central African Republic. The existing United Nations peacekeeping force, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), was deployed in 2014 and had been due to end on November 15, 2017. If Guterres’ recommendation is approved, the number of MINUSCA military personnel will increase to 11,650. According to Guterres, the additional troops will allow MINUSCA to influence security situations, rather than simply react to them, and protect civilians from growing violence. “Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating,” Guterres stated.
The Central African Republic is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for both civilians and peacekeepers. The country has been wracked by violence since late 2012, when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president to seize power. Despite peaceful elections being held early last year, armed groups still control large swaths of the country. This year has seen a rise in sectarian violence, with United Nations Aid Chief, Stephen O’Brien, warning in August that there were “early warning signs of genocide” in the renewed clashes, and cautioning that “the risk of a relapse into another large-scale humanitarian crisis is imminent,” if the United Nations did not act.
Guterres’ call for more peacekeepers has been welcomed by human rights groups, who have documented increasingly violent attacks against civilians in recent months. In September, Amnesty International called for stronger action after MINUSCA failed to prevent a wave of brutal attacks against civilians in Basse-Kotto. Describing the peacekeeping force as “stretched thin,” the human rights group called for a review of MINUSCA’s capacity to carry out its mandate. The Senior Crisis Response Adviser, Joanne Mariner, acknowledges the many lives MINUSCA has saved in CAR, “their failures risk destroying public confidence in the peacekeeping mission and are putting thousands of people in danger.”
Human Rights Watch said it supported Guterres’ request for more peacekeepers, describing MINUSCA as “instrumental” to protecting civilians in the Central African Republic. Human Rights Watch’s Lewis Mudge expresses the alarming rate at which civilian killings have been occurring in the Central African Republic over the course of 2017, and how this has led to the desperate need for protection. Mudge also states, “The Security Council should give the mission the resources it needs to protect civilians, including sufficient troop numbers to respond to the resurgence of violence threatening civilians and to protect camps for displaced people.”
Guterres’ proposal for an increased peacekeeping presence in the Central African Republic is a crucial step towards getting the nation back on the path to peace, but it alone cannot solve the country’s problems. In a trip to the Central African Republic this week, Guterres rightly said, “Nowhere in the world has the use of force alone resolved a conflict. We therefore need not only more peacekeepers, but more political initiatives for peace.” Long-term peace will require the international community’s financial, logistical and political support for the nation’s recovery and peace-building efforts. It will also require sustained international attention to a conflict that Samantha Powers, then American ambassador to the United Nations, once called “the worst crisis most people have never heard of.”
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