In an interview with Lusa in Lisbon before returning to the headquarters of the United Nations multinational mission (MUNISCA) in CAR, with about 11,000 soldiers, Serronha said that Portuguese troops have carried out operations that “prevented massacres” that could have resulted in the death of “hundreds or even thousands” of people.
“Whoever is there knows they have prevented massacres, defended people and supported refugee camps, this is also a victory that has to be recorded,” he said.
The protection of civilians is the main goal of the MINUSCA of CAR. The Portuguese rapid reaction force has 159 soldiers.
Serronha said the reality is that the Portuguese force – the only European force in action in the field in MINUSCA – is the best technologically equipped and the best trained, fulfilling efficacy standards that are not within reach of most forces.
He said that it is “obvious we cannot say there is no risk.” However, the armed groups do not shoot Portuguese soldiers “lightly.”
“We had three light casualties involving four troops,” he said.
In addition to the conditions in the field, the Portuguese force suffers from what Serronha labelled as “psychological war”: “[the armed groups] announce that the Portuguese massacre people in the places where we are, it is evident that this is denied by MINUSCA and everyone, but they try to psychologically pressure the Portuguese force to inhibit it from having a more effective operation action,” especially in Bambari.
The Central African Republic descended into chaos and violence in 2013 after the overthrow of President François Bozizé by several groups in the mostly Islamic Séléka (coalition). A group of Christian militias (known as anti-balaka) then came out against that coalition, unleashing a civil war that continues to this day, which has already killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.