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Pressure Mounting, Security Council to Vote for Peacekeepers for Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2 2013 (IPS) - The Security Council is expected to vote this week on a draft resolution introduced by France to create a UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed support for a force of 6,000 troops in the country. Last week, he reportedly met with French representative Gérard Araud for consultations.

Last Tuesday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio that France would send 1,000 more troops to the Central African Republic. An AFP report citing sources at the Bangui airport said French troops were already being airlifted into the country.

Lacking funding and materials, the 2,500 region peacekeepers already in the country have been largely unable to stem increasing violence

But at a press conference at the UN, Araud told reporters it could take up to three months for the Secretary General’s office to coordinate a plan of action.

Until that UN force can be readied, it appears the international body will rely on the Central African Republic’s former colonizer to achieve temporary stability.

Asked by IPS about the timing of a proposed mission, the Secretary General’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky said last week, “A resolution is in the hands of the council, so it’s not really possible for me to give a timeframe on that,” adding “there is a keen sense of urgency in all of this. Everything needs to be done as soon as possible.”

In an open letter to the Security Council, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called on the UN, “in cooperation with African Union, to promptly adopt a resolution offering immediate support to the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), and authorizing its transformation into a UN-led Peacekeeping Operation (UNPKO)”

The letter also stressed “specific protection of human rights defenders, journalists, and humanitarian workers” and a vetting process “for all former rebels being integrated into the national military, police or gendarmerie.”

The country has been largely lawless since Seleka, a mostly Muslim rebel group including elements from Chad and Sudan, took over the capital of Bangui in March, overthrowing former president François Bozizé.

The rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, became interim president and under international pressure attempted to disband Seleka, reportedly leading to widespread violence and looting carried out by its members.

Last week, Human Rights Watch released satellite imagery of a small village, Camp Bangui, that showed the burnt remnants of over 200 buildings – roughly half the town – which the group says were destroyed by ex-Seleka rebels “nominally integrated into new  ‘national army,” under the command of Gen. Abdallah Hamat.

Clashes between Seleka and Christian militias known as “anti-balakas” have raised concerns of a Muslim-Christan conflict or reprisal killings in a country that has largely avoided religious strife in the past. Though the French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius said the situation “verged on genocide”, recent reports indicate a more complicated state of affairs.

On Saturday, speaking with Reuters, Djotodia denied allegations that the country was approaching genocide. Less than a year ago France led military intervention in Mali to dislodge Muslim fighters who had created a de-fact state in the north of the country.

Analysts say the current conflagration in the Central African Republic is less well delineated, with groups scattered around the country.

 
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