In the Central African Republic, a prolonged but weakened Minusca

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Rwandan peacekeepers from Minusca, in Bangassou, February 3, 2021.

In the Central African Republic, crises follow one another, Minusca remains. Despite local and international pressure and its unpopularity for not having been able to put an end to the civil war that started in 2012, the UN Security Council renewed for one year, Friday, November 12, the mandate of the United Nations mission. united in the Central African Republic.

A few days earlier, the 1is November, ten Egyptian peacekeepers were injured by shots fired by the presidential guard near the residence of the head of state, Faustin-Archange Touadéra. The next day, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvie Baïpo Témon, published a press release accusing the blue helmets bus of having killed a young girl and called for renegotiating the siege agreements made with the United Nations in order to obtain more control over the comings and goings of UN personnel.

Read also Central African Republic: UN calls for investigation after attack on blue helmets in Bangui

La Minusca is an ideal scapegoat, to be sure, but its bad reputation is not always usurped. The latest scandal to date, the Portuguese justice revealed on November 8 that it suspected several members of the Portuguese special forces – the elite of the UN mission and its only contingent to have the means of a Western army – of having surrendered trafficking in diamonds during their deployment between 2018 and 2019.

The sinking of Operation “Sukula”

Since its arrival in the country in 2014, then the end of the French military operation “Sangaris” in 2016, the Minusca, with 14,275 peacekeepers, ensures relative safety, promotes dialogue between the parties, builds bridges and renovates public buildings. It also supports the redeployment of civil servants and the organization of elections. Despite everything, it is difficult to find a Central African who does not express his exasperation at the passivity of certain contingents.

The heavy UN machine is deemed incapable of adapting to the realities of a shifting and eminently complex terrain: the Central Africans have not forgotten the sinking of Operation “Sukula” in 2018, during which Minusca attempted to attack the predominantly Muslim self-defense groups in the PK5 neighborhood in Bangui. An operation instrumentalised by these gangs, who had presented it as an attack against Muslims, plunging the capital back into violent community clashes.

Read also Central African Republic: UN warns against postponing local elections

Even today, the Minusca is responsible for “Facilitate” the moribund Khartoum peace agreement signed in 2019 between the government and fourteen armed groups who competed in bad faith in the application of the text – the main signatories have been in open rebellion since December. The mandate issued by the Security Council had also asked him to” to lean on “ the organization of the presidential and legislative elections of December 2020, without foreseeing that the rebels would launch their offensive a few days before the poll, preventing two-thirds of the voters from accessing the polling stations in the strongholds of the opposition.

President Touadéra was narrowly re-elected in the first round with 53% of the vote and despite accusations of massive fraud. “We have the impression that there is only one for the president and the armed groups, that it is useless and that democracy is useless. It is an error to be corrected ”, Judge Anicet-Georges Dologuélé, who came second in the presidential election.

Bangui’s new Russian allies

The rebel offensive prompted the sending in reinforcement of several hundred paramilitaries from the Russian group Wagner, who came to the aid of the authorities within the framework of a bilateral defense agreement. New allies deemed indispensable by the regime and with whom the United Nations have collaborated – although Minusca denies it -, causing significant internal tensions, despite reports from its own agents and human rights organizations on the abuses allegedly committed by members of this private company linked to a close friend of the Kremlin and whose existence is denied by Russian diplomacy. Ulcerated, the Central African government evokes simple “Allegations”, pending the findings of a national commission of inquiry.

Read also Central African Republic: President Touadéra decrees a “unilateral ceasefire” with the rebels

As journalists and human rights organizations barely have access to conflict zones, Minusca is the only one still capable of supporting investigations or protecting witnesses. She has thus become the favorite target of pro-Russian trolls. Demonstrations are regularly orchestrated in front of its bases. Incidents with Allied forces have multiplied on the ground. The UN reports state vehicles searched, patrols prevented, verbal and physical threats … The effectiveness of the mission was reduced: according to several internal sources, it receives less information and moves less easily in certain areas. sensitive areas.

Faced with these pressures, Minusca has limited room for maneuver. The Security Council is divided. Some Western donors, led by France, are annoyed by the hold of Russian mercenaries and would like more conditions for development aid. But Russia and China follow the line of the Central African government and abstained from voting for the renewal of the mandate.

“The country does not have access to its resources”

On the phone, Sylvie Baïpo Témon takes on diplomacy « franche ». It defends itself against any harassment against Minusca, brushes aside accusations of Russian interference and argues that it is a problem of setting priorities. “We demand from the government to have good governance, to ensure the traceability of weapons, to promote women … All of this is achievable in a traditional living environment, but the Central African Republic is not there yet,” assures this former BNP financial analyst. The country does not have access to its resources, which are in the hands of armed groups. The first issue is stability and security. “

Read also The Central African Republic claims that abuses were perpetrated by rebels, but also by its own army and allied “Russian instructors”

In this area, the government seems to trust only its new allies. Despite international pressure and those from Angola, a regional mediator who pushed him to negotiate with ex-President François Bozizé (now based in N’Djamena, Chad), the government refuses to engage in dialogue with the leaders of the armed groups. , who are already preparing a new offensive for the dry season. On Tuesday, eleven civilians were killed in clashes between government forces and rebels, according to AFP. Most international and national actors agree that the deterrent presence of peacekeepers remains one of the only obstacles preventing the country from sinking into chaos in the short term.

We wish to give thanks to the author of this write-up for this outstanding material

In the Central African Republic, a prolonged but weakened Minusca