The UN Security Council is expected to adopt on Wednesday a draft resolution that will add 900 troops to the UN mission in the Central African Republic and step up measures to prevent sex abuse by peacekeepers.
The council will vote on extending the mandate of the MINUSCA force following negotiations between France, which drafted the resolution, and the United States, the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping.
Despite its repeated calls for cuts to peacekeeping, the United States agreed to a request for the 900 extra troops from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has warned of a risk of ethnic cleansing.
Guterres argued that the MINUSCA force had reached its limit, struggling to cope with growing violence in the impoverished African country since late last year.
The Central African Republic has been struggling to return to stability since an explosion of bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance.
France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka, but the country remains plagued with violence pitting groups competing for control of resources and areas of influence.
“The Security Council cannot allow the Central African Republic to plunge back into a tragic crisis,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.
The extra troops will help “break the spiral of violence and recreate a positive dynamic,” he said.
Part of the instability has been fueled by the withdrawal in April of Ugandan troops combating the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic, with backing from US special forces.
The draft resolution would extend the mission until November 2018 and set a new ceiling for troops to 11,650, up from 10,750. An additional 2,080 police are authorized to serve in MINUSCA.
– All necessary measures –
Last week, the United States said it was “not opposed in principle to a modest troop increase for MINUSCA” but stressed the importance of a zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse by peacekeepers.
“Any additional troops should maintain the highest standards of professionalism and refrain from incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, for which we have a zero-tolerance policy,” said a US mission spokesperson.
MINUSCA has been hit by a string of sex abuse allegations against peacekeepers that led to the firing of the mission commander in 2015 and the repatriation of contingents who faced repeated accusations.
The draft resolution requests that Guterres take “all necessary measures” to ensure that MINUSCA forces comply with the zero-tolerance policy and calls for regular reports to the council on rape allegations.
Deployed in 2014, MINUSCA was given a strong mandate to protect civilians but as fighting has surged in the interior of the country, the mission has been overstretched.
On Monday, the United Nations appointed an independent panel to investigate whether MINUSCA peacekeepers failed to protect civilians when violence broke out in the southeast from May to August this year.
The 900 extra peacekeepers are likely to include highly-mobile units, possibly from Brazil, who could rapidly deploy to hotspots.
The draft resolution backs the redeployment of the re-trained Central African FACA army forces to the interior of the country, with support from MINUSCA.
The FACA were swept up in the fighting in 2013, siding with insurgents from all factions, but have since undergone training with help from the European Union.