The Central African Republic (CAR) suffers from pervasive insecurity, intercommunal/religious violence and an absence of government writ across much of its territory. Conflict rooted in ethnic, socio-economic and geographic divides has raged with varying waves of intensity since 2012, displacing millions of civilians and enabling an environment leading to countless crimes against humanity. The new government elected in early 2016 after more than two years of a transitional administration does not have authority beyond the capital. As a result of ongoing attacks on civilians by a range of armed groups (AG), specifically Anti-Balaka (Christian AG) and Ex-Seleka (Muslim AG), the country faces a humanitarian crisis. As serious protection crises arose, United Nations Security Council decided to establish Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in April 2014. MINUSCA force started its deployment in September 2014 and has been at its full operational capacity in CAR since May 1, 2015.
CAR is a mineral rich country which has attracted the attention of major world powers thus pulling apart the stability and peace. In order to support their own interest, all armed groups are being supported by non-regional actors. The government of the CAR and 14 of the most powerful armed groups operating in the country came together to sign a peace deal on February 19. If it all goes as planned, the signatories will be responsible for leading the country into a new era of peace, allowing its incredible potential to blossom. However, failure to uphold the peace deal will make it one of the world’s most fractured states.
UN, along with its allies, is aiming to resolve the religious conflict and bring stability to the region. MINUSCA’s mandate includes supporting the effective implementation of the peace agreement and ensuring that it contributes to a sustainable transformation of conflict dynamics at both national and local levels.
Pakistan Peacekeepers in MINUSCA
Pakistan is amongst the largest troops contributing countries and has always been at the forefront, aiding execution of UN mandate. Pakistani peacekeepers are lauded for their long history of providing skills training to young people in war-torn countries to help them find employment and to support the countries’ economic recovery. MINUSCA mission commenced in the year 2014 in the wake of the genocide in CAR. In line with the traditions, Pakistan is the second-largest contributor of military personnel to MINUSCA with more than 1,250 troops deployed in the form of an Infantry Battalion, 2 Engineers Companies and an Aviation Squadron.
Pakistan Contingent is deployed in Sector Centre which has pre-dominantly Christian population and is the stronghold of ex-Seleka. Many initiatives have already been taken by the Pakistani troops to gear up ‘winning hearts and mind’ (WHAM) activities in the mission area to improve the level of trust amongst the general population. Resultantly, acceptance of Pakistani troops in MINUSCA has improved tremendously. Pakistani troops have ensured protection of civilians and reduced the presence of armed groups, ensuring mobility of own forces while advancing the restoration of state authority, inclusive governance and the rule of law. Commendable progress was achieved in the reduction of violence and the extension of state authority over the past year in Kaga-Bandoro where Pakistan Infantry Battalion and Pakistan Engineer Company-5 was deployed. They have helped in building the foundations of stability in Nana-Grébizi prefecture. Their actions have significantly reduced violence, increased space for the deployment of state institutions and encouraged some armed groups to commit to the national Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme with enhanced trust of local population in the UN.
A step towards the reduction of armed groups’ presence in CAR, the national DDR programme was launched with the demobilization and disarmament of groups willing to disarm. Due to lack of United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and Force Explosive Ordnance Device unit in MINUSCA, Pakistan Engineer Company-5 was tasked to carry out disposal of explosives and ammunition recovered. Disposal was carried out successfully in both Kaga-Bandoro and Batangafo reaffirming the Contingent’s commitment to the DDR programme in the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. In the last year alone, Pakistan Engineer Company-5 carried out more than 120 task orders in 8 of the 16 prefectures of CAR, withstanding the expectations of Force Headquarters. Summary of tasks accomplished from May 2018-May 2019 are as under:
Repair of roads: 768 km
Repair of bridges/culverts: 18
Repair of airfields: 9
Construction of military bases: 8
Infrastructure repair works: 34
Bomb disposal tasks: 5
Recovery operations: 5
Tasks accomplished by Pakistan Contingent have earned words of appreciation from Force Commander, Deputy Force Commander and Sector Centre Commander and commendation by all concerned in MINUSCA (military and civilian sections alike).
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