Sunday 25 February 2018

UN urges C. Africa mission to safeguard civilian lives

UN urges C. Africa mission to safeguard civilian lives
(AFP (eng) 01/26/18)

An internal inquiry for the United Nations recommends tactical changes to the UN mission in the Central African Republic to protect civilians, according to findings made available Friday to AFP.

"(The mission) MINUSCA should overhaul its strategy to protect civilians to ensure that its operational response is better adapted," said a statement by the independent panel set up by the UN department for peacekeeping operations.

MINUSCA troops and civilian staff, totalling some 14,000 in December, were first deployed in 2014 as clashes between ex-rebels and vigilante militias took on a religious dimension and both Muslim and Christian communities became targets.

International UN forces have been unable to halt the killings in a deeply poor country where armed groups contest the control of different regions and resources, with violence flaring up late in 2016.

The UN force itself is vulnerable to attack, at a cost of 29 lives since its deployment, said a separate report handed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in December.

The MINUSCA inquiry was initiated by UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, in the wake of an upsurge of bloodshed in the southeast of the CAR between May and August 2017.

In May, the town of Bangassou was attacked by "anti-balaka" militias -- a force that emerged with the purported aim of defending Christian communities from mostly Muslim rebels -- who killed many civilians.

In August, similar bloodshed took place at Gambo, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Bangassou, despite the presence of UN soldiers near both towns. In all, several dozen people were massacred.

"A certain number of shortcomings have been identified in the training of troops and police from contributing countries and their understanding of the protection of civilians," the report said.

The document called for an overhaul of training methods "to ensure a good understanding of the requirements of civilian protection".

However, it stressed that "no proof could be found" to back up allegations of possible bias by UN contingents on the ground.

Critics have notably accused Moroccan troops of taking sides.

MINUSCA's mandate was renewed in December, with a pledge of 900 more soldiers to join the mission. The goal is also to make UN forces more readily mobile and flexible.

ah/jlb/nb/ri

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