Eskinder Debebe

World News


If You Want Peace, Prepare for War

Nearly one-third of the population of the Central African Republic has been displaced following a decade of instability.

Recent clashes between government forces and rebel groups in the north of the country have forced more than 2,000 refugees to cross into Chad in the past week due to fear of attacks. Government troops supported by Rwandan and Russian forces have been closing in on the rebels of the Coalition of Patriots for Change headed by former President François Bozizé and have driven them north.

Chad currently hosts close to 11,000 of the total 117,000 Central African refugees who also fled to neighbouring Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo in the wake of the post-electoral violence.

But neighbouring Chad is no less stable than the Central African Republic. They lost their president, Idriss Déby, who died of injuries sustained during clashes with insurgents. He had gone to the front line, several hundred kilometres north of the capital N’Djamena to visit troops battling rebels belonging to a group calling itself Fact (the Front for Change and Concord in Chad). Déby, 68, spent more than three decades in power and was one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. He was a long-time ally of France and other Western powers in the battle against jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa.

His leadership style was that of a warrior president, who campaigned for peace and security through maintaining an effective army to defend the country against Islamic militants.

His death now leaves a security vacuum, and a period of uncertainty and instability for Chad. It also shines a spotlight on what is happening in the Central African Republic, their southern neighbour, where the population has become increasingly critical of MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission. The people seem to favour the strong style of government exemplified by Déby.

On 26 March, residents of Ngakobo, in the south of the country, wrote a petition calling on the Central African Republic government to replace the MINUSCA with government armed forces. The petition claims that civilians live in an atmosphere of fear and panic due to the actions of the rebels of the National Alliance for Change and complained that MINUSCA stands idly by while the people suffer.

Residents of Bouar, in the west of the country, also submitted a petition in which they demanded the departure of the UN peacekeeping mission, as local residents voiced their anger and resentment over the continued inaction of MINUSCA in the face of successive crimes and attacks by the rebels against them. Residents of the city added that the UN mission sells armaments and equipment to the rebels and provides them with aid in exchange for gold and diamonds.

They look to the European Union to voice their support for the legitimately elected government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. As Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, the foreign minister of the Central African Republic has said: “The United Nations replaced the League of Nations, who failed to avert World War II. Isn’t it time to replace the UN who struggles to keep peace in the face of multiple conflicts?”

Her question resonates with the population of the Central African Republic, who are voicing their discontent through petitions and mass protests against the deployment of MINUSCA in the country. It is time for the EU to urge the UN to reconsider its policies in the Central African Republic and move the focus away from a rather inefficient military presence to other ways of support to the government and local population.

The government’s military forces have proved their ability to cope with internal crisis and showed better results and in a shorter time period than the UN peacekeeping mission. Their success has been partly due to the coordinated support of their Russian and Rwandan allies. The people of the Central African Republic need such professional military support and we should not leave their fate in the hands of an outdated institution whose mission is no longer fit for purpose in the country of deployment.

The crisis in the Central African Republic has exposed the shortcomings of the UN’s MINUSCA, which stands accused by the local population of multiplying instability by cooperating with militants. This is precisely what has provoked the resentment and anger of the local population in many cities. Because it is very far from the work MINUSCA is supposed to do, which is to protect the civilian population and achieve stability in the country. The people see and prefer the alternative being made available to them by their own government’s military.