Let’s Be Honest—These Peacekeepers Can’t Help Central African Republic
Reinforcements too few, too late
The international effort to end the crisis in Central African Republic has made made huge progress this week.
But only on paper. In fact, the tiny number of additional peacekeepers that world bodies just authorized are too few and too late to change the terrible conditions on the ground.
The new peacekeeping mission will include 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers and will take over from the African-led MISCA peacekeeping mission, currently with 5,000 troops.
Additionally, the first 55 soldiers of the European Union’s EUFOR mission began duty in CAR’s capital Bangui on April 9. The E.U. is expected to eventually deploy up to 1,000 troops to support French forces in the country.
Central African Republic has been in turmoil since rebels chased out the authoritarian government of Francois Bozizé early last year. In December, tensions rose between the mostly Muslim rebels and the mostly Christian population of the country’s south. Thousands died in inter-communal violence and hundreds of thousands of people fled.
Despite a new government taking over and the presence of thousands of peacekeepers, terrible violence is a daily occurrence.
Don’t expect the U.N. and E.U. missions to change that.
Drop in the bucket
The deployments come too late to prevent widespread killing. Large parts of the country have already undergone ethnic cleansing, with Muslims having largely fled to neighboring states. Anti-rebel self-defense militias—the so-called anti-balaka—are now entrenched … and have begun to prey on the civilian population themselves.
Disarming and demobilizing these forces, to say nothing of returning hundreds of thousands of refugees, will be a long, painful and expensive undertaking.
And while MINUSCA in theory will have an impressive 12,000 troops at its disposal, it’s still unclear when these forces will arrive. Officially, MINUSCA takes over from MISCA in September. The 5,000 MISCA troops should fold into MINUSCA, but we don’t know where the other 7,000 will come from.
E.U. troops will arrive sooner, but with only 1,000 soldiers the mission will have a hard time achieving anything of importance in a country that’s the size of France but has fewer surfaced roads than the average European city.
At best, EUFOR and the French Sangaris mission might succeed in finally securing the capital. At worst, the recently announced withdrawal of Chadian troops from MISCA could so weaken the overall peacekeeping force that even this modest goal proves impossible.
Lessons not learned
The international community has learned nothing from the humanitarian catastrophes and even genocides in Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic Congo and other countries.
There are adequate early-warning systems that can identify countries at risk of political violence, but no political framework exists to resolve crises before they escalate. In cases like Central African Republic, it has taken way too long for world bodies to mobilize funds and troops.
This is not for a lack of military or financial resources, mind you. Crisis-intervention becomes more expense the later it arrives, so countries in a sense save money by getting involved early.
And in a time when interstate warfare has become increasingly rare, there are plenty of idle troops and weaponry that could be put to good use preventing widespread violence in unstable states.
But mistrust between powerful countries—say, between the U.S. and Russia—as well as these states’ domestic political considerations are drags on the A.U., E.U. and U.N.’s ability to respond quickly to event.
Until all that changes, terrible violence will continue.