Upholding the responsibility to protect in The Central African Republic

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The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect conducted a research mission to the Central African Republic (CAR) with the Center for Civilians in Armed Conflict and the Stimson Center from 25 March to 2 April 2014. Our objective was to assess efforts to uphold the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), focusing specifically on the protection of civilians, accountability for grave human rights violations and reconciliation initiatives. This policy brief details findings from the mission and sets forth recommendations to halt atrocities and stabilize the situation in CAR.

Mass atrocity crimes have been perpetrated against civilians in CAR by anti-balaka militias, ex-Séléka rebels, other armed groups and mobs of civilians. The risk of further mass atrocities in CAR remains high, particularly for the remaining Muslim minority, which has been targeted in a campaign by predominantly Christian and animist anti-balaka militias to forcibly displace or kill them. A renewed conflict between anti-balaka militias and ex-Séléka elements is unfolding in the interior of the country, also increasing the risk of further mass atrocity crimes being perpetrated against civilian populations resident there.

The international response to the current crisis in CAR has intensified since the surge in violence during late 2013. This has included the UN Security Council (UNSC) authorizing the deployment of 1,600 French troops under the aegis of Operation Sangaris and the 5,000-strong Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine (African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, or MISCA) of the African Union (AU). The deployment of a European Union (EU) military operation (EUFOR-RCA) and the 10 April authorization of Resolution 2149 by the UNSC for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), are much needed measures.

However, international efforts to assist CAR’s interim government in upholding its responsibility to protect - and the broader objective of stabilizing the country - cannot be accomplished solely through the deployment of international troops. The strategy of engagement must be multi-faceted, employing a wide array of tools that reflect the complex and dynamic nature of the crisis. The international response in CAR must be carefully calibrated, taking into consideration constantly changing realities on the ground. Finally, international efforts must be concerted, with a sustained focus on long-term engagement with the authorities and people of CAR.