State of emergency in the Central African Republic: soon a reinforcement of peacekeepers?

The Central African Republic on Thursday declared a state of emergency for 15 days in the country, while two-thirds are under the control of armed groups. On Thursday, the UN envoy to the Central African Republic, Mankeur Ndiaye, called on the Security Council for a “substantial increase” of the 12,000 peacekeepers deployed within the Minusca (UN Mission in the Central African Republic).

The state of emergency “allows the authorities to make arrests without necessarily going through the public prosecutor”, specified the presidency of the Republic.

A week before the first round, on December 27, presidential and legislative elections, six of the country’s most powerful armed groups – sometimes ex-enemies – joined forces to form the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC). They launched an offensive against President Touadéra, who was running for a second term, after the electoral commission had excluded ex-President Bozizé from the competition, who some of the armed groups claim. According to the Constitutional Court, which declared Touadéra elected by 53% of the votes, 35% of the Central African voters took part in the vote. A figure which can be explained by the rejection of the ballot by the rebels and by supporters of General Bozizé. The legal opposition challenged – to no avail – the official result, stressing that the elections were neither fair nor inclusive.

Since swearing to “march on Bangui”, the rebels have carried out sporadic but sometimes violent attacks, usually far from the capital, although two simultaneous attacks of around 200 assailants were repulsed on January 13 in Bangui. They are blocking supply routes to the capital, raising fears of a blockade project.

The rebel offensive caused, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the flight of some 60,000 people out of the country, especially in neighboring Congo-Kinshasa, and as many internally displaced persons. So far, around a quarter of the country’s residents have fled their homes.

Only 2,600 Central African soldiers

The rebels have so far come up against forces far superior in number and heavily equipped: to the 12,000 peacekeepers present in the Central African Republic since 2014 are added hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries dispatched at the end of December by their countries to the rescue of Mr. Touadéra and a destitute army, where significant desertions have been reported since December.

The UN envoy did not specify the number of additional peacekeepers desired for Minusca, which is already one of the most expensive UN operations in the world. According to a source familiar with the matter, she would like the reinforcement of 3,000 men, equipped with significant air resources.

The Central African security forces, estimated at around 2,600 soldiers, are too recent, too little seasoned and suffer from too weak a chain of command and a lack of sanctions, the envoy noted.

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