In­ter­view with Babacar Gaye

Africa Renewal - - Contents - — Babacar Gaye

In April 2014, the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil au­tho­rized the es­tab­lish­ment of the UN Mul­ti­di­men­sional In­te­grated Sta­bi­liza­tion Mis­sion in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (MINUSCA). The mis­sion, led by Babacar Gaye, the spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UN sec­re­tary­gen­eral in the coun­try, is man­dated to pro­tect civil­ians and sup­port peace ef­forts. Damian Car­dona, a UN staffer, re­cently sat down with Mr. Gaye, a Sene­galese na­tional, in the cap­i­tal Bangui for an in­ter­view for Africa Re­newal. Fol­low­ing are the ex­cerpts:

Africa Re­newal: What was the main chal­lenge you faced when you first ar­rived in Bangui in July 2013? How was the coun­try you en­coun­tered a year ago?

Babacar Gaye: When I ar­rived in Bangui in 2013, I was in charge of a po­lit­i­cal mis­sion in a very dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment. First, it was an en­vi­ron­ment with no real threats against UN staff, but it faced a lot of pres­sure from the loot­ings the coun­try had gone through be­fore my ar­rival. Sec­ond, it was a coun­try with­out law and or­der. Law and or­der were then in the hands of an in­for­mal group called the Seleka. Hu­man rights were at that time at the core of my con­cerns. I had a po­lit­i­cal man­date. But since my ca­reer had been in the mil­i­tary, this was my first po­lit­i­cal as­sign­ment. I re­al­ized the dif­fer­ence the day I is­sued my first press com­mu­niqué de­nounc­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and putting the UN on the high moral ground. But since then, the coun­try has changed. Since the 15 De­cem­ber 2013 at­tack, the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion has sta­bi­lized. We now have an elected pres­i­dent who is do­ing her best with limited re­sources.

The mis­sion will have up to 12,000 uni­formed per­son­nel. Why such a big con­tin­gent for a coun­try of less than five mil­lion peo­ple?

Usu­ally, peo­ple ques­tion the size of peace­keep­ing mis­sions, view­ing them as too big. It’s quite the op­po­site here. Most ob­servers feel that 12,000 forces are not enough. I try to do my best with the re­sources we have been granted by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. For the time be­ing, 12,000 is a good fig­ure if we com­pare with other UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions. But this coun­try is the size of France with one-third of the pop­u­la­tion of Paris. If you take into ac­count the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, the lack of na­tional forces, no­tably po­lice and gen­darmerie, and all the gaps within the jus­tice sys­tem, you will see that this mis­sion will have a lot to do to im­ple­ment all its man­dated tasks. It will there­fore be a mat­ter of pri­or­i­tiz­ing tasks and a mat­ter of in­no­va­tion. We will have to take some ur­gent tem­po­rary mea­sures to help the gov­ern­ment re­store the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Whether we like it or not, we will have to as­sume some re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on be­half of the gov­ern­ment. There­fore, the key to me is not the size of the force, but the mindset of the uni­formed peace­keep­ers and my civil­ian col­leagues who will be work­ing in this mis­sion.

In Septem­ber, troops here un­der the African Union (AU)’s In­ter­na­tional Sup­port Mis­sion to the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (MISCA) will be­come blue hel­mets. Are all th­ese troops ready to be re-hat­ted?

I would like to high­light the ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship that ex­ists between the AU and the UN. The AU peace sup­port con­cept is to re­act very quickly to any cri­sis on the con­ti­nent, and when the sit­u­a­tion is suit­able to de­ploy a UN peace op­er­a­tion, to hand over the mis­sion to the UN. This has been de­signed by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and is what is go­ing to hap­pen. When you have to in­ter­vene, I would say, within a short pe­riod of time, you im­me­di­ately do so, with­out wait­ing

to have all your ca­pac­i­ties ready on the ground. Most of the time African troops are faced with gaps in their ca­pac­i­ties, but th­ese are of­ten made up by their com­mit­ment and their un­der­stand­ing of the re­gional dy­nam­ics. Their mo­ti­va­tion is also to avoid a spillover of the cri­sis to their own coun­tries. The UN will there­fore be very happy to wel­come within MINUSCA most of the MISCA con­tin­gents with the un­der­stand­ing that they will pro­gres­sively beef up their ca­pac­ity to align them with UN stan­dards, rules and pro­ce­dures.

Which other coun­tries will be part of MINUSCA? Is there a se­lec­tion cri­te­rion to ac­cept troop-con­tribut­ing coun­tries?

Yes, in­deed. The UN has very strict cri­te­ria. The first is the pro­file of the troops. The sec­re­tary-gen­eral has es­tab­lished a pol­icy — the zero tol­er­ance pol­icy — not only on sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse but also on hu­man rights. It is there­fore very im­por­tant that we have troops with good pro­files that have been trained for peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions. The sec­ond cri­te­rion is that the of­fice of the mil­i­tary ad­viser for UN peace op­er­a­tions has de­signed a doc­u­ment on stan­dards for UN peace­keep­ers. This doc­u­ment is dis­trib­uted to all the mem­ber states. We also pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the ca­pac­i­ties of African con­tin­gents.

How easy will it be and how im­por­tant is it to de­ploy in all re­gions of the coun­try?

Our plan is to de­ploy MINUSCA through­out the coun­try, in­clud­ing having of­fices opened in all lo­cal­i­ties coun­try­wide. The pur­pose is first to de­liver on our man­date to pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion. It is also to help the gov­ern­ment ex­tend its ad­min­is­tra­tion coun­try­wide. We ex­pect to be present in lo­cal­i­ties such as Ber­berati, Bouar or Ndélé as part of de­cen­tral­iza­tion. And we also plan to help in at­tract­ing donors, de­sign­ing pro­jects and ad­dress­ing the root causes of in­se­cu­rity, which is poverty and un­der­de­vel­op­ment. What will be the role of the UN in the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue that many stake­hold­ers are de­mand­ing?

Our man­date is to sup­port all the ef­forts that are be­ing made to sta­bi­lize the coun­try. We will pro­vide good of­fices that will start a po­lit­i­cal process. We are work­ing on tak­ing over from where BINUCA left off. The au­thor­i­ties have just agreed to our con­cept of op­er­a­tions for a new po­lit­i­cal process. We also shared the con­cept with the other in­ter­na­tional stake­hold­ers. It is a three-step ap­proach: first, there will be a ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties, fol­lowed by dis­ar­ma­ment; sec­ond, there will be con­sul­ta­tions that will give all com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press them­selves; and last but not least, there will be as­sis­tance in lay­ing the foun­da­tion for economic devel­op­ment and good gover­nance in this coun­try. We de­signed this three­step ap­proach and shared it with all the stake­hold­ers for com­ments. To­day, we are com­mit­ted to help in its im­ple­men­ta­tion us­ing our good of­fices and ex­per­tise and if pos­si­ble with fi­nan­cial sup­port, no­tably through labour-in­ten­sive ac­tiv­i­ties that we will of­fer to for­mer com­bat­ants. We are there­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing ac­tively in the po­lit­i­cal process. Other stake­hold­ers con­sider the UN as im­por­tant in­ter­locu­tors who will lis­ten to them and give voice to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as they ex­pect and need to re­solve their dif­fer­ences. What will be the role of the African Union and other re­gional ac­tors when MISCA’s man­date ends?

I think that to­day, one of the main achieve­ments of the UN and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic is that we are speak­ing with one voice as ex­pressed in the co­op­er­a­tion between the African Union, the UN and the Euro­pean Union. This is a wel­come achieve­ment be­cause we have es­tab­lished mech­a­nisms on the ground that al­low us to ex­change views, co­or­di­nate ac­tions and re­spond jointly to the chal­lenges fac­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in han­dling this com­pli­cated cri­sis. Our work com­ple­ments each other. There is no rea­son for any change af­ter the re-hat­ting of AU peace­keep­ers. There is very close co­or­di­na­tion between the AU, the UN and the Euro­pean Union and bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion with coun­tries such as France and the US. Ev­ery or­ga­ni­za­tion has its com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage, and I feel that it is our duty to try and com­ple­ment our com­pe­ten­cies in or­der to present a com­mon po­si­tion to other stake­hold­ers.

What is your dream for the Cen­tral African Repub­lic in Septem­ber 2015, one year from now?

My dream is to see chil­dren re­turn­ing to school. My dream is to see Mus­lims and Christians, non-Mus­lims and non-Christians pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate their na­tional day to­gether. My dream is to see this coun­try re­gain­ing its con­fi­dence for the future, to see that its peo­ple want to con­tinue ex­ist­ing as a united coun­try, that they are in a po­si­tion to play their part in the devel­op­ment of a sta­ble, pros­per­ous Cen­tral African Repub­lic.

UN Photo/Ca­tianne Ti­je­rina

Babacar Gaye, Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Head of the UN Mul­ti­di­men­sional In­te­grated Sta­bi­liza­tion Mis­sion in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (MINUSCA).

UN Photo/Ca­tianne Ti­je­rina

Per­son­nel from UN Mine Ac­tion Ser­vice de­stroyed over a ton of am­mu­ni­tion out­side Bangui.

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