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Portugal has been an active security provider and, in this regard, has been working on many fronts. Portuguese soldiers and police have deployed in four continents with NATO, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).

Photo: Carlos Branco

The commitment of Portugal to security in the Central African Republic (CAR) is a phenomenon that speaks for itself. Portuguese soldiers and police officers have been engaged in the CAR with the UN and the EU missions protecting civilians,implementing Defence Sector Reform programmes and supporting the reform of the internal security forces.

Portugal has contributed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) since January 2017 with a military and a police contingent. Portuguese soldiers with MINUSCA have a particularly challenging mission. They are the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of the Force Commander. This means a company-plus-sized unit, nearly 180 soldiers, in permanent readiness to deploy in any part of an area of operations with approximately the same dimensions of France and with only 600 km or so of asphalted roads. They operate in a harsh environment sometimes very far from Bangui, where emergency evacuations of the sick or wounded from the combat area are not an easy job.

They have engaged several times in direct combat, responding swiftly to threats posed by armed rebels to the civilian population. They were instrumental to the success of MINUSCA on various occasions, especially around Bambari, the second-largest town of the country, when it was threatened by warlords’ militias. As the result of the assault on the headquarters of the “Union for Peace”, carried out by the Portuguese QRF in January 2019, the group joined the negotiations in Khartoum that ended up with the signature in Bangui of the 6 February peace agreement. The skills exhibited in combat by the Portuguese contingent were praised several times by the MINUSCA leadership. The Portuguese also introduced NATO planning procedures in MINUSCA. Portuguese nationals hold the position of deputy force commander since September 2018.The country also contributed with police officers to the MINUSCA Police component, and from September 2014 until September 2016, a Portuguese have held the position of MINUSCA Police Commissioner.

Portugal also participates in the EU Training Mission CAR (EUTM-RCA) with a contingent comprising a few tens of personnel, which included a few Brazilian officers. The EUTM-RCA activity is focused on Defence Sector Reform, which fits within the overall Security Sector Reform process coordinated by MINUSCA. The EUTM-RCA is also involvedin the important task of providing strategic advice to the Ministry of Defence, the General Staff of the Armies, the Presidential Cabinet and Internal Security Forces. Starting in January 2018 and for 18 months, the mission was commanded by a Portuguese general.

Still in the framework of the EU, Portugal pays close attention to the new EU Advisory Mission in CAR (EUAM-RCA), a mission with the aim of supporting the reform of the internal security forces, and providing advice at the strategic level to the Ministry of the Interior, the internal security forces, the police and the gendarmerie. The Head of EUAM-RCA is a Portuguese national.

Major General (Ret’d) Carlos Branco, former Director, Cooperation & Regional Division, IMS, NATO HQ.