Can UN Peacekeepers Prevent the Central African Republic from Descending Deeper into Conflict?

The Central African Republic is facing some serious challenges right now.

Four years ago, the country was on the brink of genocide after the longtime strongman Francois Bozize was ousted in an armed rebellion. The violence quickly turned sectarian with Christian and Muslim militias attacking civilian populations and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. UN Peacekeepers along with French forces deployed to the country and prevented this crisis from spiraling totally out of control. A peace process emerged, a new government was elected and a tenuous peace took hold.

The French forces withdrew last October. Now, about 12,800 UN peacekeepers remain.

In recent months, though, violent conflict started to re-emerge — particularly in more remote parts of the country. The trend-lines now are not as positive as they were a year ago.

This episode on the Central African Republic is in two parts.

I speak with a member of Congress, David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

He visited the country in August as part of a congressional delegation examining the work and role of UN Peacekeepers in the country. He describes what he saw in the country and makes a strong case that the peacekeepers in CAR need far more support than they are currently getting. Congressman Cicilline also discusses UN peacekeeping more broadly and why he believes Blue Helmets are an important pillar of US national security and global stability.

After my conversation with Congressman Cicilline, I play an excerpt from my conversation from last May with the photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, whose work from the Central African Republic was included in the may issue of National Geographic magazine. Marcus has travelled extensively in CAR and covered the violence in 2013. In the excerpt, we discuss the roots of the conflict — why it emerged and its effect on the population at the time. This includes a conversation of Marcus’ journalism and photos from CAR.

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