Civilian protection stressed as Security Council mulls UN force in Central African Republic
6 March 2014 – Top United Nations officials today underscored the need for urgent action to confront the myriad challenges facing the Central African Republic (CAR), as the Security Council considered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's proposals for deploying a peacekeeping mission that will be tasked, first and foremost, with protecting civilians in the strife-torn nation.
"The situation in CAR remains extremely grave and urgent action by all – including by this Council – is required to prevent further bloodshed," Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told the 15-member body.
Ms. Amos, who recently visited the country, reported that the crisis that has gripped CAR for more than a year has left the State unable to deliver basic services or to stop the spiral of violence. In addition, there is no national army, and the police and the gendarmerie are ill-equipped to address current challenges.
The conflict in CAR erupted when Séléka rebels launched attacks in December 2012 and has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as mainly Christian militias known as anti-Balaka (anti-machete) have taken up arms.
Ms. Amos said CAR is experiencing "unacceptable sectarian brutality, persistent insecurity and fear" with tragic humanitarian consequences. More than 650,000 people are still internally displaced, with more than 232,000 in the capital, Bangui, alone. This includes 70,000 people who are still living at a site for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the airport in "appalling" conditions which are set to worsen dramatically with the onset of the rainy season.
"Unless the current trajectory is urgently reversed, the demographic and social changes taking place in CAR will have severe and lasting consequences for the country, the region and the continent," she stated.
In addition to those displaced within the country, over 290,000 people have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Congo, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who was also recently in CAR.
"Rarely has a field visit in my eight-year tenure as High Commissioner caused me such anguish as my recent trip to the Central African Republic," he told the Council. "I was deeply shocked by the barbarity, brutality and inhumanity that have characterized the violence happening in the country."
Mr. Guterres stressed that the most important protection and humanitarian objective inside CAR is to re-establish security and law and order. "The immediate reinforcement of international forces, in particular with police contingents to ensure security in the neighbourhoods, is the biggest imperative."
In his briefing, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous noted that the current deployment of international security forces – the African-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA) and the French mission, known as Sangaris – is not sufficient and lacks the civilian component to adequately protect civilians under imminent attack.
"Addressing the crisis in the Central African Republic requires a unified and integrated approach, through the deployment of a multidimensional peacekeeping operation, with the protection of civilians as its utmost priority."
He added that the UN is "uniquely positioned" to deploy and sustain such a mission with the full range of capacities required to address the deep-rooted nature of the complex crisis unfolding in the country.
In a report sent to the Council earlier this week, Secretary-General outlines his proposal for the establishment of a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation in CAR that would aim at re-hatting as many MISCA troops as possible.
Mr. Ladsous noted that the mission's objectives, in the early phase of its deployment, will focus on providing a secure environment, a sine qua non for progress in other areas, supporting the Transitional Government to exercise basic state functions, supporting peace and reconciliation efforts, extension of State authority, protecting basic human rights, and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
"There will be no quick fix in the Central African Republic," stated the peacekeeping chief, adding that responding to this crisis will require time and resources.
"The scale of needs in the Central African Republic is daunting, and progress in any one area will not be sustainable without significant and simultaneous engagement in others. The deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation should therefore be part of a broader, long-term engagement of the international community."