The kidnapping and assassination of senior political figures in Bangui in recent weeks, along with a number of violent intercommunal reprisals and attacks on peacekeepers, have sparked concerns the Central African Republic’s capital may be about to descend into yet another cycle of devastating sectarian violence. These recent events have already cast doubt over Pope Francis’ scheduled visit at the end of November. This is at a time when the transitional government and the UN’s newest peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, are still struggling to address the consequences of September’s political and sectarian violence, which displaced tens of thousands and cost dozens of lives, all while preparing for elections next month.
The situation in CAR provides a stark illustration of the dilemma that many UN peacekeeping operations face today. The mission was urgently needed to protect civilians from widespread political and sectarian violence that began in December 2013. Yet, with only temporary national counterparts in the transitional government to work with—and multiple parties trying to prevent elections that would install a legitimate elected government—MINUSCA has encountered serious challenges in supporting a political solution to the conflict.
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