Urging a Comprehensive U.S. Government Strategy in Central African Republic
Nov 19, 2013
Civilians in the Central African Republic are at imminent risk of atrocity crimes. Political, security, and human rights conditions continue to deteriorate, and increasing violence between Muslim and Christian communities within the country has compounded an already dire emergency humanitarian situation. We urge the U.S. to join the international community in working to halt violence, protect civilians from mass atrocities, protect human rights, and prevent the current situation from spiraling out of control.
Key indicators of deterioration and potential for mass atrocities against civilians were outlined by members of our community in a press release made public on October 31. On Friday November 1, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, asserted that violence in the country may already constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, civilians face imminent threat of atrocities, and he would not rule out the possibility of genocide. On November 13, John Ging, director of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned, “We are very, very concerned that the seeds of a genocide are being sown.”
The U.S. national security apparatus should recognize both the severity of the crisis unfolding in the CAR and the opportunity to decisively engage to defuse it. U.S. leadership has been critical in preventing atrocities by the Lord’s Resistance Army in southeastern CAR. These efforts risk being eclipsed by escalating violence and instability at the national level. The implosion of CAR could also further destabilize an already volatile region of the world. We therefore urge the following:
Join international efforts to immediately stabilize the country
1. Provide immediate support for a fully sized, well-resourced and rapidly deployable MISCA force, and reprogram bilateral resources where necessary to help equip and transport that force. Ensure that MISCA has the logistical, technical and financial support to fulfill its civilian protection mandate, and keep under review the necessity of authorizing a peacekeeping mission with a strong and clear civilian protection mandate.
2. Exert the full power and leadership of the U.S. Mission to the UN to immediately request an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in CAR in response to the Secretary General’s Report released November 18, and work with the French Mission to the UN as they assume the Presidency of the Council in December.
3. Ensure that President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Power are engaged with all key actors, including the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of Central African States, European Union and Government of France at the highest level to de-escalate the conflict and protect civilians.
Support violence prevention and conflict transformation activities
1. Support the rapid expansion of community-based violence prevention and conflict resolution activities to address rising interreligious and intercommunal tensions. Dialogue between Christians and Muslim communities and public condemnation of violence by those in positions of authority, including political, religious and community leaders, are critically needed.
2. Help to scale up ongoing non-violent messaging campaigns to prop up moderate voices and reach populations in high-risk areas outside of the capital.
3. Support local civil society, including women human rights defenders, in their work on prevention, and support for survivors of human rights violations, including rape and other forms of sexual violence and the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers.
4. Continue to provide support to forces from the African Union Regional Task Force (AU RTF), emphasizing the importance of protecting civilians and encouraging defections from the LRA. Work with the AU and UN to improve civilian protection strategies in areas of CAR affected by LRA violence that are outside of the AU RTF’s area of operations. Work with BINUCA to ensure that efforts by transitional authorities in CAR to encourage LRA defections adhere to the UN’s LRA DDRRR Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Increase support, space and safety for humanitarian activities
1. Provide immediate support to bolster lifesaving humanitarian assistance, particularly in areas outside of Bangui. At least 50% of the 4.6 million person population requires humanitarian assistance, with a funding gap for humanitarian needs of at least $195 million. International NGOs on the ground are able to expand their work, but need financial support.
2. Ensure that interim forces prior to the deployment of MISCA preserve humanitarian space by helping to establish regular security patrols along major axes in the city of Bangui and roads outside of Bangui to protect humanitarian space and the security for humanitarian actors. These patrols will help dissuade the risks of hijackings, human rights abuses, and facilitate the movement of both humanitarian actors and the population.
3. Engage with World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and World Bank Board of Executive Directors to encourage their re-engagement in CAR. The Bank recently completed an assessment mission in CAR and has multiple infrastructure development and community development projects ready for implementation with large sums already committed.
Create an environment to end impunity and stop abuses and killings
1. Ensure that BINUCA is given the resources necessary to carry out the humanitarian, human rights monitoring, and political mandate given to it in UN S/RES/2121 (10 October), in particular to monitor, investigate and report regularly and publicly on human rights by ex-Seleka forces, local militia, the LRA, and other armed groups.
2. Support the relevant bodies including the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council to begin investigations into violations and abuses committed against children and women, including all forms of sexual violence in armed conflict; conduct an assessment of the potential risks and benefits involved in providing that support, in particular regarding the record of the different contingents’ compliance or non-compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, including any specific record of grave violations by personnel who will be involved in the peacekeeping operation. An independent commission of inquiry should be created to establish the extent of the atrocities being committed and identify those suspected of being behind the violence.
3. Press for a halt to the illegal diamond trade which is one mechanism financing support to illegal armed groups in the country. An embargo on Central African diamonds should be considered, as well as concerted international efforts to tackle other drivers of the conflict, including the capture of natural resources, long-standing socio-political marginalization, and issues of pastoralism and transhumance.
Work to build the foundation necessary for political transition
1. Continue to support the political roadmap established already in the Libreville and N’Djamena agreements, recognizing the need for basic law and order to permit those measures to be achieved and a functioning state established.
2. Re-establish a US diplomatic presence on the ground in CAR or via regional accreditation in a neighboring country as soon as possible to better coordinate and demonstration US commitment to a comprehensive response to the crisis in CAR. In the interim, consider appointing a Special Envoy to the Central African Republic or to the Central African region.
3. Engage openly and regularly with local and international civil society organizations on the ground in CAR to ensure maximum coordination of efforts. Encourage governmental and multilateral partners on the ground to share information with civil society, particularly in regards to the movement of internally displaced persons and humanitarian needs. Ensure that local civil society organizations and actors are fully engaged in the transition process.
The Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities states clearly that: “[U.S.] security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods.” Now is the U.S. Government’s moment to engage proactively and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large-scale civilian atrocities. While we understand the multitude and complexity of ongoing crises facing the U.S. today, we believe strongly that failing to act multilaterally in CAR today will make it harder and more costly in both lives and dollars for the United States to act tomorrow.
The Enough Project
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Jewish World Watch
The Resolve LRA Initiative
Search for Common Ground
STAND: The Student-led Movement to End Mass Atrocities