Amid the turmoil that has engulfed the Central African Republic, France’s top commander there— General Francisco Soriano—said that Central African forces should do their share of stamping out the violence. He continued on to say that Bangui could not “rely on the international community for everything. “Central Africans need to participate in the reconstruction of their own country. We already do a lot.” These words came two days after President Francois Hollande extended France’s mission and sent an additional 400 soldiers.
The interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherina Samba Panza, had asked the French to extend military intervention until 2015, at least until the elections early that year. It is a grim picture considering the French expedition was deployed last December for a “fast” operation. Now it is being asked to take on a considerable commitment. President Panza, on the other hand, has been urging not just the French troops, but the 6,000 strong African Union MISCA force to make full use of their UN mandate. It was at the request of Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki Moon that France send the extra 400.
The domestic situation in Central African Republic has been in unrest since 2012. A little less than a year ago, the Muslim Seleka group seized power with Michel Djotodia becoming president, ousting Francois Bozize. After this occurred, pro-Bozize and the predominately Christian anti-Balaka factions refused to submit to this new government. Both sides began committing atrocities and as often happens in such domestic crises, the violence occasionally spills over the borders as refugees flee. Djotodia was pressured to resign in January of this year, but anti-Balaka forces continue to rage throughout the land.
The International Mission for Support of the Central African Republic, MISCA, replaced the former peacekeeping group FOMAC in December. The head of MISCA is the African Union Special Representative to the C.A.R. Major General Jean Marie Michel Mokoko of the Republic of the Congo. Mokoko was formerly the deputy to the African Union Representative to Mali and Sahel. For the police component of the MISCA, Gendarme Colonel Patrice Ostangue Bengone of Gabon is in charge with Don Deogracias Ndong of Equatorial Guinea as his assistant. In total, MISCA consists of soldiers from the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Chad and Cameroon.
The MISCA are providing an invaluable service as the Central African Republic’s armed forces are in complete disarray. President Samba Panza said that her country needs decisive action from the MISCA and French forces to restore order. However, General Soriano said that responsibility for restoring stability cannot rest solely on the forces of MISCA and France. Part of the problem he says is that general policing action is needed within the C.A.R. “Now, we want an internal security operation where we need to involve the Central African security forces more fully… we need to work more with the police to put them back in the saddle. It is important to restore the authority of the state.”
This past week there was some good news as the Republic of the Congo apprehended an anti-Balaka leader within their borders. But this is a small step. President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo has stressed that the turmoil in Central African Republic must be dealt with through the cooperation of all nations within the region, both militarily and politically. Though the situation seems hopeless, President Nguesso has reminded everyone of the seemingly insoluble state of Angola and South West Africa in the 1980s and how by coming together for the Brazzaville Protocol, the nations of Africa managed to bring some respite of peace.