UN Security Council backs Central African military intervention

AFP , Thursday 5 Dec 2013

The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously backed an African and French military intervention to halt deadly chaos in Central African Republic.

A French-drafted resolution gives a UN mandate to about 4,800 African and French troops being sent to the impoverished nation, which is facing growing Muslim-Christian strife.

France's UN envoy Gerard Araud said after the vote there is a risk of "mass atrocities" in Central African Republic and the 15-member council has a duty to act.

The resolution gives a 12-month mandate to the African-led International Support Mission in Central African Republic (MISCA).

French forces can use "all necessary measures" to support the African contingent.

There are currently about 2,500 troops in MISCA, which will eventually reach 3,600. France has 600 troops there and plans to increase this to 1,200.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon will recommend in three months whether the force should become a full UN peacekeeping mission.

The resolution also orders an arms embargo against Central African Republic and the setting up of a UN commission of inquiry into mass killings, rapes and looting since March when rebels forced President Francois Bozize to flee.

A transitional government led by a former rebel has since lost control of the country where rival Christian and Muslim groups are now embroiled in deadly battles.

The council voted as scores of dead were reported in the capital Bangui and France sent 250 troops out into the streets.

UN, French and US officials have warned that Central African Republic could turn into a genocide.

"This population is being terrorized by militias who are carrying out the worst abuses. Murder, rape and looting has become a daily occurrence for thousands of women, children and men," Araud told the council.

He said there was a mounting risk of inter-religious strife between Christians and Muslims.

"History has taught us what can happen. History must make us avoid the worst. History obliges the Security Council to act," France's ambassador told the council.

"The risk of mass atrocities is there," he added, criticizing the "indifference" shown toward Central Africa Republic in recent years.

The resolution highlights the "total breakdown in law and order" in the state which, it adds, risks "degenerating into a countrywide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation."

Human Rights Watch said the resolution was a "a crucial step" toward halting the strife.

But HRW's UN specialist, Philippe Bolopion, said the African force would be only "a temporary fix".

"Bolder steps are urgently needed. As soon as the UN is ready to proceed, the Security Council should authorize the deployment of a force of blue helmets with sufficient numbers and equipment to protect the civilians most at risk. US support will be crucial in this regard," Bolopion added.

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