UN: More Peacekeepers Needed in Central African Republic

The United Nations’ top diplomat in the Central African Republic said Thursday that significantly more peacekeepers are needed to quell election-related violence that has caused nearly 60,000 people to flee the country.

“The current capacity of the [U.N.] mission will be tested even more at a time when, more than ever, it must protect civilians and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance, which is severely impacted by acts of violence by the CPC,” Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, told the U.N. Security Council.

The CPC (Coalition for Patriots for Change) is made up of armed groups allied with former CAR President François Bozizé. They initially sought to disrupt last month’s elections. Having failed at that, they are now trying to oust President Faustin Archange Touadera, whose reelection was confirmed Monday by the country’s Constitutional Court.

“To this end, we need a strategy to manage the mandate, a substantial increase of uniformed components of the mission — namely the troops, the police and the prison service — must be strengthened in order to give us greater mobility,” Ndiaye said.

The mission, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, has nearly 13,000 troops and police. Just before the December 27 elections, 300 troops were temporarily redeployed from the U.N.’s mission in neighboring South Sudan, as well as two military helicopters along with their crews.

Ndiaye said Thursday that the deployment will need to be “prolonged for several months” and urged sending “as many people as possible” from the U.N. mission in South Sudan. That mission has more than 15,000 uniformed personnel, but they are stretched thin.

The head of MINUSCA said his peacekeepers also need drones, attack helicopters and the ability to bolster the mission’s special forces.

“We need an increase in our capacity in order to respond to this new threat, which is destabilizing the country even further,” he said.

A U.N. diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity told VOA that the Security Council and MINUSCA leaders are discussing a possible extension of the troops from South Sudan and bringing in additional battalions, potentially totaling “up to several thousand” more boots on the ground.

The surge in violence has been deadly for MINUSCA. Seven troops have been killed in CPC ambushes in less than four weeks.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on all parties to stop the violence and engage in meaningful dialogue.

The country has been under a U.N.-imposed arms embargo since 2013, intended to stop the flow of weapons to armed groups. The Security Council’s sanctions committee must approve all transfers of weapons or related materiel to the state security forces.

CAR Foreign Minister Sylvie Valérie Baipo Temon urged the council to lift the arms embargo, saying that it impedes the government’s ability to defend its territory and protect its people, while the rebels simply violate it.

“The FACA’s [Central African Armed Forces] shortages of equipment need to be remedied to rebalance the equation with the armed groups,” the foreign minister said. “Armed groups have mortars, anti-air guns, anti-personnel mines, rocket launchers, and the list goes on.”

France’s envoy said lifting the embargo would depend on progress made in meeting objectives laid out by the council, starting with the management of arms and ammunition.

“Under no circumstances should the embargo be an obstacle to the strengthening of the Central African armed forces, to which France gives its full support,” Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said.

Source: Voice of America