Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CAR: " You've finished playing hangman, you've cast the fateful dice. "

The BBC reports

Central African Republic: UN 'may need 10,000 troops'

                                            Former rebels, mostly Muslims, are being evacuated from military camps

The UN believes at least 10,000 troops will be required in any force sent to end unrest in Central African Republic, the French UN envoy says.

Ambassador Gerard Araud described the situation in CAR as "very, very dire".

The Seleka rebels are being escorted from Bangui by Chadian peacekeepers but there departure will not calm the situation All Africa reports:

" Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, said in a post on Twitter that he saw 25 vehicles with 500 heavily armed men driving through central Bangui. According to Bouckaert, Seleka leaders left the camp on Sunday, escorted by Chadian troops with the African Union peacekeeping force."

There is also carnage and looting in Muslim neighbourhoods in the capital as the local flee what have effectively become Christian death squads and property is being looted.

His comment comes after the UN Security Council approved a resolution allowing European troops to use force in CAR.

I am glad that the authorisation comes from the UN Security Council however I am strongly of the opinion that this should be a UN operation. I covered the political aspects of this earlier in the week and I think the use of troops under there respective national armies is problematic. That said it is far better to have the boots on the ground.

About a million people - 20% of the population - have fled their homes during months of religious violence, after rebels seized power last March.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Araud said the African Union force in the country, intending to reach 6,000 troops, "is considered now too low because frankly the situation is very, very dire and the country is huge".

I think the AU force should be just about at 6000. New Times ( Rwanda ) has reported that all the Rwandan troops are now there and they were the last African troops to deploy. All the news to date has been from Bangui there will probably be a bigger humanitarian catastrophe in the regions.  

" Rwanda successfully deployed all its planned 850 peacekeepers to the volatile Central African Republic (CAR), an exercise that began on January 16 and involved 38 airlifts.

The group which jetted out yesterday will immediately join other peacekeepers already in CAR as part of the Rwandan contingent supporting the African Union International Support Mission to CAR (Misca), which seeks to pacify the war-torn country."

Threat of sanctions

The UN Security Council resolution, which was passed unanimously, allows reinforcements to use "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in the country, which has been in near anarchy since its president was overthrown 10 months ago.

In addition to the use of force, the resolution allows for sanctions against the ringleaders of groups blamed for massacres and human rights abuses.

The Seleka rebels started the bloodbath and it would seem that they are being removed to Chad, I would suggest they will not face any punishment the vast majority of the violence at the moment is Christian militias taking revenge the lack of personnel available to the peacekeeping forces suggests that it is unlikely that there will be much in the way of punishment for them either.

Security Council members have been alarmed by the vicious cycle of vengeance between Muslim and Christian militias in the Central African Republic, says the BBC's Nada Tawfik in New York.

There is concern that without a stronger international response - the situation will degenerate into a countrywide religious divide and spiral out of control, she adds.

I think that we have already reached the out of control point. Three weeks ago I blogged about the situation:  

" It is improving insomuch as we have taken a step forward, the two steps backwards have yet to come. Unless the international community can get its shit together very fast then those backwards steps are days if not hours away."

Clearly the international community has failed to get its act together and we are well past two steps backwards.
The EU has agreed to send up to 600 troops to help African and French troops already deployed in the country to prevent further bloodshed.

But the first question is how long will it take for them to deploy ? I suspect they will arrive in March and the second is will 600 make any real difference ? I doubt it. 

France, the former colonial power, has 1,600 troops in CAR, working with some 4,000 from African countries.

I think that with the additional African Union deployments the figure is now about 7600 troops the extra 500-600 isn't going to make a big difference.

On Monday, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the situation was getting even worse despite the inauguration of a new leader last week.

The appointment of Catherine Samba-Panza to the Presidency it was hoped would provide a breaking effect on the violence it hasn't. 

She called for more international help, saying Muslim civilians were being targeted.

Many Christian communities set up vigilante groups, accusing the mainly Muslim rebels of attacking them.

The boot is now clearly on the Christian foot it may well be that the surviving Muslim community will be exiled if they are not killed. This was always going to be the outcome and to some degree it is understandable. The Muslim community allowed the Seleka rebels to massacre the Christians now the situation has been reversed the most that the peacekeepers can hope to do is provide safe zones while a solution is arrived at. 
Also on Monday, Christian and Muslims leaders asked UK Prime Minister David Cameron for more assistance.

That isn't going to make much difference. 

" Britain, along with Germany, has offered logistical support but has repeatedly made it clear that it will not send soldiers."

Germany has however agreed to send troops.

CAR is rich in gold and diamonds but years of unrest and poor governance have left most of its 4.6 million people in poverty.

And now facing the very real possibility of a genocide.

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