Where is the Responsibility to Protect in CAR?

CAR-Responsibility to Protect

13 years ago, heads of Government at the United Nations (UN) agreed on the three principles of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), a global commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution.  States collectively agreed to protect their citizens and citizens of other countries from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The RtoP has three pillars for action, the first pillar refers to states own responsibility to protect, the second for the international community to assist and encourage protection, and the third and final is for the international community to take appropriate collective action where a state has seriously failed to protect. Despite this international commitment in 2005, the international community has been unable to protect the citizens of the Central African Republic (CAR).

It’s been just over four years since the Seleka seized control of the CAR and the country has been plunged into a never ending conflict ever since. Despite elections in 2015, won by Faustin Archange Touadera, no one has been able to bring an end to the conflict. The Seleka has since fractured into multiple armed groups at war with each other and the anti-Balaka militias. Although help has been slow, the international community, via France and the UN (MINUSCA), deployed troops in an attempt to quell the violence. The UN recently passed a resolution to renew the mandate and increase the strength of the MINUSCA in order to quell the violence, as well as renewing an arms embargo on the country.

Yet despite the existence of the MINUSCA, who themselves have not been fully equipped to deal with the conflict, and the arms embargo, violence has continued and civilians have not been protected. Rebels have reportedly murdered people in hospitals and fired at groups of refugees. In a harrowing report, Human Rights Watch documented the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war by both the Seleka and the anti-Balaka.  According to the UN, the current number of refugees and displaced people resulting from the conflict numbers around one fourth of the 4.6 million population. The crisis in CAR is a test case for the international community in protecting civilians, and one that it is failing right now.

CAR is wholly reliant on the international community to help it deal with the violence and protect its citizens. The government exercises little control over the country outside of the capital Bangui, due to its lack of military capability. According to GlobalFirepower, the CAR army ranks 129th out of 133 countries. The military, known as the FACA, is in the process of being rearmed and remobilised, however this will take time.  Therefore the MINUSCA and the international community are the only hope for civilian protection from rebel groups.

One major issue has been the alleged behaviour of the MINUSCA troops, as well as the French troops when they were previously deployed. Peacekeepers and French troops have been accused of sexual abuse and sent home by their force command, damaging their reputation. The case against the French troops was dropped following an investigation due to a lack of evidence. These are the people the international community has sent to protect civilians, yet these allegations suggest some of them may be part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Thirteen years since RtoP was agreed, it is clearly still a work in progress. If the international community is serious about protecting civilians then it must be more effective in protecting civilians in the CAR. Of course, ending a complex conflict is easier said than done, and there is no one size fits all model by which to do this. Yet we have had over four years to get to grips with what is going on in the CAR and come up with an effective strategy to ensure the protection of civilians from armed groups. It is time for the international community to prove that the RtoP was a commitment and not just empty rhetoric.

–Featured image –Boy in front of destroyed homes in Ngaoundaye, Central African Republic | hdptcar : flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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