UN seeks more peacekeepers for Central African Republic

UN forces from Rwanda patrol the streets of Bangui, Central African Republic. (AP)
Updated 16 September 2017

UN seeks more peacekeepers for Central African Republic

BANGUI: The UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic is requesting about 750 more troops to help fill a “security vacuum” worsened by the withdrawal of US special forces as violence surges again, according to a confidential cable obtained by The Associated Press.
The additional troops are needed in the southeast after the withdrawal this year of US and Ugandan troops hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, according to the message from mission head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga to the UN’s head of peacekeeping operations in New York.
Hundreds of people have been killed since May and more than half a million people have been displaced as largely sectarian violence moves into parts of Central African Republic that were spared the worst of the fighting that began in 2013. International observers warn that the country is approaching the levels of violence seen at the height of the conflict in 2014.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said he wanted to “shine a spotlight on an under-reported emergency” in Central African Republic, which has seen a 37 percent increase in refugees and displaced people in the past three months.
Rebel groups control an estimated 70 percent of the country, according to international human rights organizations. The UN mission has acknowledged that its authorized force of 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police is not enough in the country roughly the size of Texas.
The request for more troops would increase the total of uniformed peacekeepers to about 13,500.
“It’s pretty clear that the mission, with its current capacity, is overstretched,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Lewis Mudge. “They simply don’t have the means to address the increased attacks on civilians.”
The fighting is mostly between predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and majority Christian anti-Balaka fighters over resources and trade routes in the countryside.
The existence of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in the region is also a concern. The US and Ugandan militaries in pulling out of the hunt for the LRA said the group had largely been neutralized. However, leader Joseph Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, remains one of Africa’s most-wanted fugitives. The UN has reported kidnappings by the LRA in the region since the pullout.
In his cable, Onanga-Anyanga wrote that “new actors are emerging to fill the security vacuum (in the southeast), creating upheaval in a once relatively calm region.” Those include offshoots of the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters.
The UN peacekeeping mission needs an “urgent increase in military capabilities given the deteriorating security situation and escalating violence against civilians, humanitarians and peacekeepers,” said Evan Cinq-Mars, the UN advocate and policy adviser at the non-profit Center for Civilians in Conflict.
But any request for more resources for the UN mission is challenged by pressure from the Trump administration to cut peacekeeping budgets, even though the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, met with Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera in March and reaffirmed US support for the country.
The UN peacekeeping mission did not comment.
The additional peacekeepers, if granted, also may be used to push out the ex-Seleka rebel group Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic. Onanga-Anyanga’s cable said the mission’s force commander is “confident the armed groups can be ousted from Bria” town in the southeast.
UN peacekeepers earlier this year forced the ex-Seleka rebel group Union for the Peace in Central African Republic out of the central mining town of Bambari.
Mudge, who recently visited Bambari, said the town is doing better now with the peacekeepers and state security forces back in control.
“Efforts to oust (rebels) from major towns, as long as there are sufficient blue helmets to maintain peace, may increase stability in the east,” Mudge said, referring to the peacekeepers.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.