On the 10th of January, Portugal’s Armed Forces General Staff released a video of a five-hour-long battle between Portuguese paratroopers and the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia. The battle was instigated when Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) rebels killed two police officers and wounded another in Bambari, some 400 kilometers from the capital Bangui. The attack was instigated a day after President Faustin-Archange Touadera stated the government and rebels would come together in Khartoum to initiate an African Union (AU)-brokered peace deal.

The UPC, which is a splinter group with members from Séléka (an alliance of rebel militia groups) and various other armed groups, carried out attacks in several locations in Bambari a day before the president was scheduled to visit. Medecins Sans Frontiers stated that it treated 30 people for gunshot wounds and that, sadly, one person died in the hospital.

Since, 2017 Portugal has contributed to the international peacekeeping effort in the Central African Republic (CAR) with a special company from the Portuguese Army operating from the capital Bangui as a quick reaction force.

Source: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Portugal

The Portuguese peacekeepers have prioritized the protection of civilians; support for the peace process; and facilitating humanitarian assistance and protection of personnel, facilities, equipment, and goods of the United Nations. According to the U.N. Security Council’s Mandate of the Integrated Multidimensional United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), their primary role is “to provide actions that anticipate, deter and respond effectively to serious and credible threats to the civilian population.”

The current Portuguese contingent is mostly comprised of special parachute troopers from the 2nd Parachute Infantry Battalion, which now has a total of 180 soldiers, reinforced with PANDUR armored personnel carriers (APCs).

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Source: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Portugal

The MINUSCA mission is unique in that it allows ‘blue helmets’ to engage enemy forces, whereas most other U.N. troops can only respond when engaged by hostile forces.

Portugal provides an additional 50 people to the European Union Training Mission in CAR (EUTM-RCA). Portugal’s Major General Hermínio Maio has been serving since January as mission force commander in theater. He commands a total of 187 staff members from Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Italy, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and Sweden. On January 8, Brazil contributed to the mission too.

Portuguese Para in CAR

Nearly 3,000 troops have completed training since the EUTM-RCA started to serve in the Central African Armed Forces. In July 2018, the EU extended the EUTM-RCA mission until 2020, pledging €25 million ($28 million) to aid the country’s defense sector. The mandate of the mission was also extended to provide strategic advice to the president’s cabinet, interior ministry, police, and the military.