Voice of America (Washington, DC)

6 March 2014

Central African Republic: CAR Urges UN to Dispatch Peacekeeping Force

United Nations — The foreign minister of the Central African Republic has asked the U.N. Security Council to quickly send a U.N. peacekeeping force to his country. The minister highlighted the deteriorating conditions in the CAR, and warned his country could be infiltrated by international terrorist groups.

Toussaint Kongo-Doudou urged the 15-nation Security Council to quickly authorize a robust peacekeeping force for his country, saying a delay will only cost more lives.

"We need to act now to avoid Central Africa falling more and more into chaos and becoming a potential breeding ground for international terrorism," he said. "This is not far off."

He said they have seen elements of the Sudan-based Janjaweed militias already involved in abuses carried out by the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels.

He also warned of threats from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and said that the Nigerian group Boko Haram is, again, "not far off."

The minister said his government believes only the United Nations has the necessary assets to put in place a multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation.

The African Union has some 6,000 peacekeepers in the country, working alongside 2,000 French troops, trying to calm sectarian violence that has killed thousands and displaced nearly one million people.

The European Union plans to dispatch 1,000 troops in the coming weeks and the U.N. secretary-general has appealed to the international community to send additional reinforcements.

In a report to the Security Council this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended the rapid deployment of up to 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers and 1,820 police.

His peacekeeping chief, Hervé Ladsous, told the council it would take about six months to plan and deploy a U.N. mission, which would have as its main priority the protection of civilians.

"Of course, we are fully aware this will be challenging environment for a United Nations peacekeeping mission," he said. "Yet we believe that the United Nations is uniquely positioned to deploy and to sustain a multi-dimensional operation with the full range of capacities that are required to address the deep-rooted nature of this complex crisis."

The peacekeeping chief said there would be an initial surge in troops and police that would be drawn down as the security environment improves, allowing the U.N. to focus on civilian and state-building activities.

But that milestone could be many months away. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Gutteres and U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who made separate visits to the CAR last month, both stressed the dire humanitarian situation.

They said civilians live in fear of attack and the social fabric of the country is being torn apart. Amos said the core of the conflict is about power and money, not religion, but it is being played out through religious and ethnic clashes.

They warned that the longer the conflict continues, the more difficult it will be for the country and the society to recover.

Security Council members will now begin discussions about a U.N. peacekeeping force and are expected to authorize one by the end of this month.

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