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Several decades since its independence, CAR continues to be confronted with endless conflicts. In December 2012 when Séléka who had an Islamic background (meaning “alliance” in the local Sango rebel coalition) launched a series of attacks. The attack could be overcome by the signing of a “Libreville Agreement” peace agreement in January 2013. However, the peace agreement did not fully go well. This can be seen in the presence of insurgent rebels in Bangui (capital city on CAR). In March 2013, President-elect François Bozizé was forced to be rushed from the capital for fear that the uprising evolved into an open conflict. In December 2013, the uprising continued to grow and increase. This is marked by the formation of Anti-Balaka group that has a Christian background. The group launched attacks and clashes between Séléka and Anti-Balaka continued in Bangui as well as in other areas (www.minusca.unmissions.org).
The growing conflicts make state institutions experiencing instability. It also makes millions of people starve and the onset of various diseases that can spread throughout the CAR. This conflict has killed thousands of lives and 2.5 million people, some of the CAR population was forced to evacuate and need humanitarian assistance from the government and external parties. As of March 2014, more than 600,000 people fled to other safer areas. As many as 70,000 people live in refugee camps near the airport in the capital Bangui. More than 370,000 people fled to Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Chad. So much attention from the international community continues to be aimed at the CAR crisis such as the United Nations, as well as other international and regional actors including the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), France and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). They provide assistance to find a peaceful settlement of conflicts, protect civilians, and provide humanitarian assistance to communities in the CAR (www.minusca.unmissions.org).
The African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) suffered from a number of capacity issues. There was“no unified command structure”, and rivalries among troop contributors were rife with varying commitments to meet the goals of its mandate. Public perceptions of MISCA became increasingly negative, largely because the mission’s operations were mostly confined to Bangui, leading civilians to believe that MISCA was not doing all it could to maintain security across the country. According to some observers, its force commander, General Mokoko, did not fully understand the political dynamics of the country and was not willing to spend the necessary time investing in CAR politics (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 324).
As the situation deteriorated in 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon used the Rights Up Front initiative to ring the alarm bells and to call for a UN intervention, before the rest of the UN Secretariat was prepared for it. In November 2013, the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) submitted a report to the UNSC on various options for UN involvement in CAR. Based on a decision by the UNSC, the Secretary-General dispatched an assessment team in early 2014, which recommended the establishment of a peacekeeping operation. In March 2014, DPKO received instructions from the UNSC that the transfer of authority would take nine months in order to allow DPKO to enhance the capacities of the MISCA Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) and generate additional troops to make up the difference in numbers and strength (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 227).
After the African Union (AU)’s failure to end the violence in Mali, few in the UNSC or the UN Secretariat wanted to be seen as“piling onto” the AU’s failures, despite growing public pressure throughout 2013 for a more robust international intervention. This explains why the United Nations” MINUSCA was authorized in April 2014, a year into MISCA’s deployment but with a five-month“preparation” period for the transition of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA in September 2014 (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 324).
In April 2014, the UNSC transformed the AU’s MISCA into MINUSCA under UNSC Resolution 2149, with an authorized force of 12 000, and set 15 September 2014 as the official handover date. BINUCA, plagued by weak leadership in the face of an intransigent government, and whose mandate was“completely derailed by the spiraling violence”, was subsumed within MINUSCA in September. Operation Sangaris and European Union Force (EUFOR) continued in their support capacity, with the latter formally authorizing a new mission (EU Military Operation in the Central African Republic (EUFOR–RCA)) in June 2014. By early 2015, CAR was host to three international peacekeeping missions with a sizeable international military presence (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 324).
Overall, the handover process was smooth; there was good chemistry between the heads of MISCA and MINUSCA, and there was already a UN team working within MISCA, which helped to smooth out the UN’s involvement. Just after Resolution 2149 was authorized, a small UN delegation in Addis Ababa (capital city of Ethiopia) helped to set a good basis for pre-deployment visits and the assessment of TCCs, which would be undertaken jointly with the AU and which made the transition easier. The UN deployed a small team to support MISCA operations by providing experts, military training and protection of civilians training, which eased the gap between the UN and the AU in the transition process. There was also close cooperation when it came to the political elements; MISCA and MINUSCA personnel met in Brazzaville (capital city of the Republic of Congo) and CAR on a weekly basis to develop a political dialogue strategy, particularly to convince various CAR actors to participate in the dialogue (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 324).
Plans for a new national dialogue began in 2015. After consultations and town hall meetings, a general consensus was reached on holding the“Bangui Forum” in January 2015, despite the fact that nearly all of the recommendations from the Inclusive Political Dialogue (IPD) of December 2008 (which was largely focused on the participation of elites in Bangui) – an earlier initiative supported and funded by the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) and other international partners – were never implemented (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 327).
After numerous delays, the Bangui Forum was eventually held from 4–11 May 2015; it was arguably an improvement on previous national dialogues due to its emphasis on inclusivity and its grassroots consultations with women’s and other groups, both in the capital and outside. As a result, the forum was largely considered a success, as it created the opportunity for wide-ranging citizen participation. However, the consultations were rushed in the interests of pushing the process forward as quickly as possible, and while a report was drafted, a framework for grassroots participation was not included (Carayannis and Fowlis, 2015: 339). The forum is said to have failed to handle the national reconciliation process effectively because the steps taken did not implement the recommended recommendations.
The challenge facing both the AU and the UN is to make the African contingent ready to carry out its duties and mission. These challenges include challenges of contingent mental readiness, equipment and exercise equipment, and functions that must be undertaken by the African contingent. The United Nations does not replace all African contingents, notably the Equatorial Guinea contingent and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as there are some concerns about it. MINUSCA deals with remaining troops from the Central African State Economic Community (ECCAS), who have been trained and in some cases like the DRC, have not been paid regularly. This makes it difficult for MINUSCA to enforce order and security. This is not surprising since the AU also never really affirmed full control over the troops inherited from ECCAS (www.tandfonline.com).
When complaints arose that selective treatment and the failure of MINUSCA to protect civilians, a report that emerged in early May 2014 on sexual exploitation and abuse of CAR children by French and international peacekeepers further tarnished the image of the mission. Shortly thereafter, a human rights officer at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and a staff member from the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) interviewed an 11-years-old boy giving specific details of his harassment at the hands of a French soldier. This is done to obtain evidence of sexual exploitation by MINUSCA (www.crin.org).
The OHCHR officer provided information to Renner Onana, Head of Human Rights and Justice for MINUSCA, on the details of the interview. However, there is no record or evidence that he has taken action to address it. OHCHR and UNICEF staff members continued to interview children, victims, reporting each incident to MINUSCA, further evidence demonstrating that sexual exploitation and abuse have been several weeks after the first report and during their investigation period in mid-June. A month later, the OHCHR officer report detailing the harassment, has spread to a number of UN staff members, one of whom shared with Mr. Anders Kompass, OHCHR Field Operations Director. Kompass informed the United Nations Secretary-General of the United Nations about it, leaking reports and details (www.crin.org).
The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) began investigating Anders Kompass for leaking information that violated the protocol in September 2014. However, no steps were taken to determine the actual content of the report in response to evidence gathered by the OHCHR investigation. There is conjecture about the attempt to conceal disciplinary charges and procedures against Kompass over the next eight months when a number of civil society organizations issued a letter calling for UN transparency in response to reports of child sexual abuse and exploitation (www.crin.org). French prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into allegations of abuse of authority on May 7, 2015 (www.theguardian.com). Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also finally announced plans for an independent external investigation into claims of abuse of authority (www.un.org).
The UN High-Level Independent Panel for Peace on 16 June 2015, recommends changes to ensure accountability of peacekeeping troops for sexual exploitation. Later, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appointed a new panel to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation (www.un.org). On 12 August 2015, reports from local media confirmed that Babacar Gaye – CAR the UN Special Envoy – had been asked to resign. This is due to the many allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by the MINUSCA peacekeepers. Then Human Rights Watch researchers informed about the case of a sexual exploitation in Bambari conducted by MINUSCA peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo and DRC. They were eventually sent back to their home country and dismissed as MINUSCA (www.bbc.com).
Throughout 2015, there have been more than 90 allegations of sexual exploitation reported to staff in various fields at the United Nations. Meanwhile, there are more than 70 similar cases that occurred in the CAR during 2014. The perpetrators of crimes of sexual harassment are UN peacekeepers under the auspices of the UN itself, MINUSCA (www.cnnindonesia.com). This sexual exploitation is a manifestation of the failure of the AU and the UN in carrying out its role in the peace mission within the CAR. The transition from MISCA to MINUSCA has not produced the expected results.
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