Pledges for the Central African Republic Fall Far Short

We know how much it will cost to prevent a disastrous slide further into conflict in the Central African Republic:  around $409 million. That is the price tag of a minimal African Union force, known as MISCA, that is providing the bulk of international troops helping to bring a degree of stability to CAR. Over the weekend, on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, donors agreed to fund the force, but only up to $315 million.

That is a step in the right direction, but it still leaves the force far short of what it needs to fully deploy to support the deployment of a full-capacity AU force of 6,000 (up from 5,000 today), which is currently buttressed by a French force of 1,600. And also keep in mind those are just pledges. Sometimes promised money does not come through.  Currently, the fund set up for the African Union mission in the CAR sits at just about $5 million, according to U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who participated in the most recent donors meeting.

Among the major donors, the European Union pledged a new $34 million for MISCA. The Central African Economic Community – ECCAS – came through  with a $100 million pledge. The USA, which has already pledged $175 million towards the CAR, did not pledge additional funds at the Addis Ababa meeting.

The European Union, in addition to pledging additional funds in Addis Ababa, has also committed to sending its own ground troops to support the overall peacekeeping effort in the Central African Republic. As predicted by Mark Goldberg last week, no commitment regarding the eventual introduction of a UN-led peacekeeping mission was introduced, meaning that the AU mission may be further expanded down the line. Reacting to the results of the donors conference, Interim CAR Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke said that while they had hoped that the full budget figure would be met, they are conscious that many other countries are struggling – what matters, he said, is that countries are interested in the CAR.

Even though she is the new interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba Panza was not invited to participate in the donors meeting. Instead, the new leader spent the weekend visiting various locations to deliver a message of peace and reconciliation, including speaking at Bangui’s Central Mosque and Catholic Cathedral. Unfortunately, the situation in the CAR is precarious, with civilians being killed on a daily basis, indiscriminately, by both the Seleka (mostly Muslim) and the anti-balaka (mainly Christian).

If you have any doubt about the urgency of keeping a lid on this crisis, read Peter Bouckaert’s dispatches from CAR. He is the Emergency Director at Human Rights Watch who has been sending chilling reports from the field.  He describes “death records at the Bangui morgue [that] read like a chapter out of Dante’s Inferno, page after page of people killed by machetes, torture, lynching, shooting,explosions, and burning.” Bouckaert’s daily tweets, and recent article for Foreign Policy, with excruciating photos by Marcus Bleasdale, are important testimonials of what is happening on the ground, and proof of the urgent need for improved security for civilians in the Central African Republic.

That requires money. It is critical that donors step up and provide the funds needed to support this African Union force.