When the Security Council authorized the African Union MISCA force for the Central African Republic ten weeks ago, Samantha Power made clear that this course of action was chosen because it was the most expedient way to get international troops to CAR.
…Achieving these goals requires a credible military force with a robust mandate to engage in peace enforcement activities. Today’s resolution gives us that. The deployment of MISCA and French forces with a Chapter VII mandate provides the most immediate vehicle to protect civilians, prevent atrocities, and restore humanitarian access that has been lost.
The Security Council has rightly recognized that the situation in CAR is desperate and it is dynamic. What is necessary today may not be what is necessary tomorrow. As such, this resolution asks the UN Secretary General to begin contingency planning on the possible transition from MISCA to a UN peacekeeping operation if conditions warrant.
That was in December. Today, the head of the UN Refugee Agency Antonio Guterres just left the Central African Republic. This is what he had to say about what he saw. (Full statement here).
I have witnessed in the Central African Republic a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions.
Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing.
There have been indiscriminate killings and massacres.
Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterized this violence.
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the country for their safety, many are trapped with nowhere to go. In Bangui alone, thousands of people are in ghettos in grave conditions.
Even with a new President and the formation of a Government, it still cannot effectively protect its citizens.
It is imperative to re-establish security, law and order. For the people of the Central African Republic, safety and security for all is the most urgent priority.
The international community must come together for a significant and immediate increase of the forces and police on the ground.
It is becoming evident that the course of action decided by the Security Council in December needs some re-evaluation. After a brief period of improvement in Bangui, the security situation is now rapidly deteriorating. Muslim Central Africans feel too threatened to stay in Bangui and are fleeing by the tens of thousands. They are being escorted out of the country African Union troops who protect them from lynch mobs lining the street. Meanwhile, other troops are guarding humanitarian convoys which had been held up at the border of Cameroon as people were going hungry in CAR. This is on top of the regular patrols and disarmament that are intended to help bring a semblance of law and order the country, but failing to do so.
There are currently about 5,000 African troops deployed as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA. Beyond that, there are about 1,600 French troops backing this mission. These troops levels are clearly not doing the job. More peacekeepers are needed. An urgently so.
The good news is that MISCA will add another 1,000 troops by the end of next month. And a new EU Force of up to 1,000 troops is expected to deploy at the end of April. But that is a long way off. In the meantime, who will come to the rescue of civilians in the Central African Republic as it falls to pieces? And will another 2,000 make a difference?