by MARIE-THERESE KEITA-BOCOUM
BANGUI, (CAJ News) – THE United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) seems to face serious challenges, which became evident when a crisis escalated six months ago as militants of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) led by former CAR president François Bozizé, who attempted to take Bangui by force.
During the seven years of their presence on the territory of the Central African Republic, the UN peace-making forces have failed to rein in militants while proceeds from illegal economic activities and arms supplies helped to strengthen the rebels’ position.
This is a matter of serious concern. Considering the Mission’s failure to fulfill its mandate in that case, more needs to be done to avoid repetition of such situations in the future.
The MINUSCA forces did not intervene when civilians were in danger, which resulted in numerous casualties and caused frustration among the population. Thousands of people have protested in a number of provinces and have brought complaints against MINUSCA.
Local people have reported that in the immediate vicinity of the Mission and practically before the eyes of the troops, CPC militants harass the population, rape women, and steal property.
Militants have unleashed mayhem and it has been possible to avoid genocide only due to the measures taken by the CAR government and its allies.
The events in the city of Bouar near a MINUSCA military base are a worrying sign. The population of the city had suffered attacks by armed groups since January 2021 until the city was taken by the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and their allies.
Coherent efforts by the upgraded national military forces supported by allies from Rwanda and trained by Russian instructors have demonstrated that the problem of armed groups has a solution.
MINUSCA’s inability to act promptly and effectively in the unraveling crisis could have led to an awful tragedy.
The population does not benefit from a greater troops level
As of December 2020 when the CPC launched attacks, the MINUSCA personnel numbered 14 921, including 12 870 peacekeepers.
The UN Security Council following its February meeting took a decision to increase the number of troops by 2 750 and the police force by 940, with the total number reaching the approved limit of 14 400.
However, CAR president Faustin Archange Touadera earlier solicited support from allies on December 12 after the CPC had formally declared its intentions posing a deadly menace to civilians.
With the approval of the Security Council, Russia provided the necessary assistance to the CAR within days, which ensured that the Central African Armed Forces had the necessary resources to protect people.
The decision to increase the size of the MINUSCA force was frustratingly slow in coming; when it was adopted, armed groups had been mostly driven out of the CAR territory, and transport ties were restored protected by the government forces FACA.
Given the circumstances there was little sense in the decision to increase the number of the MINUSCA personnel, which demonstrates the bureaucratized nature of UN missions and their inability to make a difference in situations like this.
But for the assistance of the CAR allies, genocide could have happened before the decision on further help was made.
MINUSCA proves extremely costly
MINUSCA is funded through a separate account approved by the General Assembly on an annual basis. The budget for the period from July 2020 to June 2021 amounts to $1 006 428 200 and the Mission always requests extra UN financing.
Given the woefully low effectiveness of the Mission, enormous spending on its presence in that country seems untenable. It seems necessary to rethink the need for the Mission on the ground as the coasts are incommensurate with the outcome, which has been starkly illustrated by the developments of the past six months.
More significant results could be achieved if a comparable sum of money was spent on upgrading military forces or implementing humanitarian programmes with the necessary controls in place.
Besides, it has been reported that the UN Mission is implicated in trafficking and illicit economic activities, using its immunity. This is inadmissible and a threat to the credibility on the UN.
NB: Ms. Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum is the UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic (CAR)
– CAJ News