African Union: Concrete action urgently needed to halt atrocities in Central African Republic

The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council must urgently clarify its plans to deploy the new African-led peacekeeping mission to tackle the spiralling human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), Amnesty International said today.

A week has passed since the UN Security Council unanimously authorised the transition of an existing force of peacekeepers from central African states on the ground, into a one-year African-led mission joined by French peacekeepers. Known as the International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA), and comprising 6000 troops, it is due to take over on 19 December.
 
But just a week before the planned deployment, confusion reigns over which African countries will provide the troops, and when. It is also unclear how they will ensure co-operation with some 1,600 French troops who have also deployed separately to the CAR in the past week.
 
In a letter, Amnesty urged the AU Peace and Security Council to break its silence and spell out the concrete action it is taking urgently to put forces on the ground and ensure effective protection of civilians.

Netsanet Belay, Africa Director at Amnesty International, said:

“A clear plan and concrete action are urgently needed from the African Union to prevent the crisis in Central African Republic spiralling completely out of control.

“Amnesty International’s team on the ground has witnessed how tens of thousands of civilians are in vital need of the protection the promised African-led peacekeeping force will provide.
 
“But with only a week to go until the force begins its mandate, there is a serious lack of clarity about its composition, timeline for deployment and priorities.”

The Amnesty team, which has been in Bangui since last week, has documented a rapidly deteriorating situation as tit-for-tat atrocities are being committed against Muslim and Christian communities alike.

With upwards of 500 people reportedly killed amid inter-communal and sectarian violence, scores of dead bodies have been piling up at the city’s central morgue and mosques. There are also many reports of bodies being buried in people’s backyards.

More than 100,000 internally displaced people, too afraid to return to their homes, are living in misery in makeshift camps at some 30 sites around the city, including at Bangui airport. At the airport camp the population swells to more than 40,000 at night, as people seek protection offered by the African and French troops based there.

Netsanet Belay said:
 

“Protecting civilians from the ongoing atrocities and ensuring humanitarian assistance gets to those in need are absolute priorities. But it will only be possible if the peacekeeping forces on the ground in the Central African Republic are adequately resourced and the African and French forces have clear guidelines for collaboration.
 
“Before it’s too late to make a difference, the UN Secretary General must speed up his assessment of the peacekeepers’ impact on the ground – within weeks, not months. And he must immediately start preparations for the deployment of a robust UN peacekeeping force to step in if and when needed.”

Amnesty noted that the MISCA force has already relied on international assistance to enable its deployment – including a US offer to transport Burundian peacekeeping troops to Bangui.

The organisation called on the international community to step up efforts to assist the peacekeepers in their bid to halt the atrocities, protect civilians – including the displaced – and restore law and order. 

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