What's In Blue

Posted Wed 5 Mar 2014

Discussion on a UN Peacekeeping Operation in the Central African Republic

Tomorrow (March 6), the Council will be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the Secretary-General’s recent report (S/2014/142) on the transformation of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) into a UN peacekeeping operation, as requested by resolution 2127. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, will also brief on their recent visits to the Central African Republic (CAR).

Amos and Guterres will brief on the humanitarian and refugee situation in the CAR where hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced, many have fled to neighbouring countries and about half of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Council members will be interested in their views on challenges in the CAR as both Amos and Guterres were in the country last month.

Amos travelled to the CAR with the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibé, and Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Department of Safety and Security, Mbaranga Gasarabwe, between 18-20 February. Amos said during her visit that “the killing of innocent people, looting and burning of entire villages must stop. Security needs to be restored so that people can go back home and not live in fear. Those engaging in violence bear the responsibility for ending this conflict”.

Guterres visited the CAR from 11-12 February, and described the situation as “a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions” with “indiscriminate killings and massacres” and continuing “massive ethno-religious cleansing”. Guterres noted that the country needed international help to protect its civilians and establish security and law and order.

The briefing will be followed by consultations where Council members will have an opportunity to have a first discussion on the Secretary-General’s recommendation, in light of the complete breakdown of state authority, security and law and order, to establish a multidimensional peacekeeping operation with an authorised strength of 10,000 military personnel and 1,820 police personnel. Deployed with a significant civilian component, the existing UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR (BINUCA) will be incorporated into the mission. The tasks of the mission are laid out in the report and include protection of civilians, support to the restoration of state authority and institutions, and the protection of human rights.

If established, the report anticipates the mission will build its capacity by 15 September by using existing forces on the ground (about 6,000 MISCA troops, 2000 French troops and up to 1,000 EU troops expected to be deployed shortly). In the meantime, the Secretary-General urges the Council to implement his proposed six-point initiative for immediate assistance: : rapid reinforcement of troops on the ground; a coordinated command for these forces; a logistical support package to MISCA; support for the government to establish basic state authority; expediting reconciliation and the political process; and more funding for humanitarian aid. The Secretary-General presented his six-point plan to the Council when he briefed on 20 February, but this will be the first opportunity for the Council to consider taking concrete steps to implement this plan.

In consultations Council members will likely focus on the recommendation in the report of the Secretary-General to establish a UN peacekeeping operation. Although some views have been expressed, most Council members have been waiting for this report before making clear their position on having a UN peacekeeping operation. In previous discussions, Russia, the US and the African Council members took the position that MISCA and the other international forces should be given time to fulfil their mandates and restore security in the CAR, while close attention should be paid to ensuring the success of the transitional political process. The AU, which is likely to supply the troops for a UN peacekeeping mission, has also maintained that the establishment of a UN mission should wait until the required conditions have been created. In a 17 February letter to the Secretary-General the chairperson of the AU expressed the hope that within six to nine months, the initial stabilisation phase would be completed and suggested that the precise time frame should be determined on the basis of regular joint assessments of the situation.

Among the arguments against creating a UN peacekeeping mission are budgetary concerns raised by some members, and whether such a mission is the appropriate response to stabilise the CAR at this juncture, as the situation still requires a more robust peace enforcement response. Other members view the situation as necessitating a robust law-and-order mandate in lieu of state authority, rather than peace enforcement.

In view of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, which were entirely expected, and in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground, it seems that there is growing openness to a UN peacekeeping mission and a growing consensus that immediate Council action is needed to assist the forces on the ground, as a UN peacekeeping mission would take several months to become operational. It seems that France, the lead Council member on this issue, is keen for the Council to move towards adopting a resolution on the transformation of MISCA to a UN peacekeeping operation rapidly.

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