Plagued by decades of instability and fighting, the impoverished Central African Republic (CAR) witnessed a resumption of violence in December 2012 when the mainly Muslim Séléka (meaning ‘alliance’ in the local Sango language) rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement (Libreville Agreement) was reached in January 2013, but the rebels seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee. A transitional government was established and entrusted with restoring peace. The conflict however took on increasingly sectarian overtones by December as the mainly Christian anti-Balaka (anti-machete) movement took up arms and inter-communal clashes erupted again in and around Bangui.
Mandated to protect civilians and support transition processes in the Central African Republic
Months of violence led to wrecked State institutions, leaving millions on the brink of starvation and threatened to suck in the wider region. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and 2.5 million, more than half of the entire population, needed humanitarian aid. As of September 2014, more than 174,000 people have been internally displaced. Over 414,000 people have also fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the United Nations, its Secretary-General as well as other international and regional actors, including the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and France, have worked tirelessly trying to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict, stop the killings, protect civilians and provide humanitarian relief.
The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), which had been deployed to the country since January 2010 to help consolidate peace and strengthen democratic institutions, had to adjust its priorities but continued to stay throughout the crisis despite the looting of its offices and staff residences and the curtailing of its operations due to insecurity.
In September 2013, the UN Secretary-General recommended certain measures in order to render the presence of BINUCA more effective on the ground. As a result, the Security Council adopted its resolution 2121 (2013), which strengthened and amended BINUCA mandate in five areas: support for the implementation of the transition process; support for conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance; support for the stabilization of the security situation; promotion and protection of human rights; and coordination of international actors involved in the implementation of those tasks.
MISCA and Operation Sangaris
As the situation in the CAR seriously deteriorated by December 2013 with the new dynamic of violence and retaliation threatening to divide the country along religious and ethnic lines and potentially spiral into an uncontrollable situation, the Security Council authorized, by its resolution 2127 (2013) of 5 December, an AU-led International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA) and French-backed peacekeeping force (known as Operation Sangaris) to quell the spiralling violence. At the same time, the Council conferred additional task to BINUCA in support of the expanded AU operation and called on the Secretary-General to “undertake expeditiously” contingency preparations and planning for the possible transformation of MISCA into a UN peacekeeping operation, and stressed that a future decision of the Council would be required to establish such a mission.
The swift deployments of MISCA and Operation Sangaris forces proved critical to saving the lives of civilians and preventing an even greater tragedy in the Central African Republic. However, given the scale and geographic breadth of the crisis, the security requirements on the ground far exceeded the capabilities and the number of international troops deployed. Violence and widespread human rights violations continued to take place throughout the country despite their presence. They also lacked the civilian components to adequately protect civilians under imminent threat or tackle the root causes of the conflict.
Secretary-General’s six-point initiative
Speaking to the Security Council on 20 February 2014, the Secretary-General called for a comprehensive and integrated response to deal with the complex security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in the CAR. Although he was expected to report soon to the Council on the outlines of a future UN peacekeeping operation, the Secretary-General noted that its deployment might take months and that the people of the Central African Republic did not have months to wait.
In that spirit, the Secretary-General proposed a new six-point initiative designed to stop the violence and killings, protect civilians, prevent the de facto partition of the country, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and provide the Government with some urgently needed support.
The initiative has called for the rapid reinforcement of the AU and French forces on the ground and the deployment of additional troops and police personnel; the provision of logistical and financial support to African forces; the coordinated command of the international forces, focused on preventing killings and protecting civilians; a rapid infusion of tangible support to the Government of the CAR; the acceleration of a political and reconciliation process for the country; and urgent and full funding for humanitarian operations.
The Secretary-General urged the Security Council to support these proposals, as a vital bridging measure, pending the eventual deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
UN peacekeeping operation proposed
In a report [S/2014/142] submitted to the Security Council on 3 March, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorize the deployment of a multidimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation, with the protection of civilians as its utmost priority.
The aim was for the bulk of MISCA to transition to a United Nations peacekeeping operation, along with other contributors in accordance with the human rights screening policy and capabilities, in order to reach an authorized strength of 10,000 military personnel, including 240 military observers and 200 staff officers, and up to 1,820 civilian police officers, with 10 formed police units comprising 1,400 formed police unit personnel, 400 individual police officers and 20 seconded corrections officers. These would be deployed together with a significant civilian component and necessary support staff. This strength would be reviewed on a regular basis, leading to appropriate recommendations to the Council. With the establishment of the peacekeeping operation, BINUCA would cease to exist.
Objectives and priorities
The objectives and priorities of a United Nations operation, and hence its configuration and activities, would be adjusted over time to the particular conditions and needs of the country and its people. Thus, the objectives of the United Nations peacekeeping operation during the early phase of its deployment focused 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, protecting basic human rights and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
As conditions evolve and, in particular, as the security situation improves and national security capabilities develop, the objectives of the United Nations mission would shift to focus increasingly on supporting the extension of State authority and the State’s ability to deliver public services, the consolidation of a stable political environment, the reconciliation of communities and the return of people to their homes, the development of rule of law institutions and the promotion of respect for human rights. An exit strategy, which will have to be based on progress made in building national capacities, will need to be determined from the outset.
While a large, initial military deployment would be necessary to address the security challenges, it is envisaged that United Nations military forces would progressively draw down as quickly as conditions permit, allowing the United Nations to focus as much of its efforts as possible on critical civilian and state building tasks.
The Secretary-General recommended that the mandate of the proposed United Nations peacekeeping operation include: (a) the protection of civilians; (b) the protection of United Nations personnel, installations and equipment and ensuring the security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel; (c) support for the political process and key elements of the transition, including the restoration of State authority and its extension throughout the territory; (d) the creation of security conditions conducive to the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance and the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees; (e) the promotion and protection of human rights; (f) the promotion of a national dialogue, mediation and reconciliation at all levels; and (g) support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former armed elements, with specific attention to children, and the repatriation of foreign elements, as well as community violence-reduction programmes.
Additional tasks would include: (a) support for the organization and conduct of elections; (b) support for security sector reform; (c) support for the police, justice and correctional institutions to reinstate the criminal justice system; (d) mine action, monitoring of weapons and ammunition trafficking and stockpile management; (e) coordination of international efforts in support of enhancing good governance, including the development of sound fiscal policies and natural resources management; and (f) institution-building and laying the groundwork for long-term socioeconomic recovery.
While presenting his proposal, the Secretary-General indicated that, based on the lessons learned from previous transformations of regional operations into UN peacekeeping missions and taking into account specific challenges on the ground in the CAR, it would take the United Nations approximately six months to prepare the deployment of its operation. In order for the United Nations mission to be ready and to ensure a smooth transition, it was recommended that the UN Secretariat, in coordination with the AU Commission, would immediately deploy a transition team, with MISCA and BINUCA participation, to the Central African Republic..
As an immediate priority, the team developed strategic plans, most importantly a mission concept and related concepts of operations and support plans, while initiating the construction of necessary facilities, including the mission’s headquarters, camps and field offices throughout the country. This entailed the immediate deployment of requisite civilian capacities, including air assets and engineers. The team also assisted in the early recruitment of civilian capacities with the required language skills.
On 15 September 2014, upon successful completion of of MISCA’s mandate and in accordance with resolution 2149 (2014), the official transfer of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA took place.
The Secretary-General believed that there would be no solution to the crisis in the Central African Republic without the continued active engagement of the country’s neighbours and the region and called on them and the wider international community to increase their efforts in support of that country, taking into account their respective comparative advantages, while seeking to leverage partnerships and regional initiatives.
He also said that the proposed peacekeeping operation would only succeed if the region continued to play an important and complementary role, including through the mediation of President of the Republic of the Congo Sassou Nguesso, ECCAS and the African Union. The mission therefore worked closely with and provided full political support to the African Union and ECCAS, as well as limited operational support within its means, capabilities and authorities, so that they could continue to play a role in stabilizing the country.
Broader long-term engagement
Concluding his report, the Secretary-General recognized that there would be no quick fix in the Central African Republic and that responding to the crisis would require time and resources. The scale of the needs in the country was daunting. Progress in any one area would not be sustainable without significant and simultaneous engagement in other areas. Further postponement of a sustainable multidimensional response might well carry even greater human and financial costs. The potential division of the country along sectarian lines and the creation of a fertile breeding ground for extremist groups were real risks, with potentially far-reaching implications for the stability of the region and beyond.
The Secretary-General was of the view that many of the problems facing the Central African Republic exceeded the capacities of a United Nations peacekeeping operation, considering the complexities of the crisis, the absence of the security apparatus and the almost non-existent capacity of the State. Deploying a United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic, he said, should therefore be part of a broader long-term engagement of the international community. Success in this broader effort to help the Government and people of the Central African Republic to rebuild a State would depend on the contributions and commitments of many actors, most importantly Central Africans themselves.
On 10 April, the Security Council, by its resolution 2149 (2104), established the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for an initial period until 30 April 2015 and requested the Secretary-General to subsume BINUCA in the new mission from the date of adoption of that resolution. It further requested the Secretary-General to ensure a seamless transition from BINUCA to MINUSCA.
It decided that, as of 15 September 2014, MINUSCA will initially comprise of 10,000 military personnel, including 240 military observers and 200 staff officers and 1,800 police personnel, including 1400 formed police unit personnel and 400 individual police officers, and 20 corrections officers.
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council authorized MINUSCA to take all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment.
The Council requested the Secretary-General, in consultation with the AU, to deploy a transition team to set up MINUSCA and prepare the seamless transition of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA by 15 September 2014, as well as to appoint a Special Representative for the Central African Republic and Head of Mission of MINUSCA, who shall, from the date of appointment, assume overall authority on the ground for the coordination of all activities of the United Nations system in the Central African Republic.
In accordance with the decision of the Council, the official transfer of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA took place on 15 September 2014. In the period preceding this transfer of authority, MINUSCA implemented the mandated tasks through its civilian component, while MISCA continued to implement its tasks as mandated by Security Council resolution 2127 (2013). MINUSCA commenced the implementation of the mandated tasks through its military and police components on 15 September [see Mandate for details on the civilian, military and police tasks].
By other provisions of the resolution, the Security Council authorized French forces, within the limits of their capacities and areas of deployment, from the commencement of the activities of MINUSCA until the end of MINUSCA’s mandate, to use all necessary means to provide operational support to elements of MINUSCA from the date of adoption of this resolution, at the request of the Secretary-General.
Click here for the full text of resolution resolution 2149 (2104).