UN chief wants 3,000 more troops for Central African Republic

by Reuters
Thursday, 20 February 2014 21:17 GMT

A Moroccan soldier from the peacekeeping forces secures a street in Bangui February 20, 2014 REUTERS/Luc Gnago

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday appealed to the international community to urgently send another 3,000 troops and police to Central African Republic in an effort to stop violence between Christians and Muslims that threatens to spiral into genocide.

Ban told the U.N. Security Council he would report shortly to the 15-member body with a recommendation for a U.N. peacekeeping force with a robust mandate to protect civilians and promote stability in the landlocked former French colony.

"But the deployment of a peacekeeping operation, if authorized, will take months. The people of the Central African Republic do not have months to wait," he said. "The international community must act decisively now."

"The security requirements far exceed the capabilities of the number of international troops now deployed," Ban said. "I call for the rapid reinforcement of the African Union and French troops now on the ground with additional deployments of at least 3,000 more troops and police."

The additional troops, which Ban said needed to be deployed within weeks equipped with air mobility, would increase the international force to 12,000. The force would bridge a gap of up to six months until a U.N. peacekeeping force - if approved by the Security Council - could be established in the country.

The European Union is already due to deploy 1,000 troops to join 6,000 African Union peacekeepers and almost 2,000 French soldiers, who have struggled to stop the fighting sparked when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power a year ago in the majority Christian state.

"I am grateful for these commitments. But more are needed, quickly, and the wider international community must share the burden," said Ban, who also proposed that the international troops all be brought under a coordinated command.

He said the force should focus on: "Containing the violence, protecting civilians, preventing further displacements, creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and laying the groundwork for the handover to a United Nations peacekeeping force as soon as possible."

Ban, who has said he is gravely concerned the violence could spiral into genocide, warned that a "de facto partition" of the country was setting in. Almost 1 million people, or a quarter of the population, have been displaced by fighting. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by James Dalgleish and G Crosse)

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