The United Nations Security Council on Thursday unanimously authorized a nearly 12,000-member peacekeeping force for the Central African Republic, where fighting between Christians and Muslims has been raging for months.
The U.N. force will take over Sept. 15 from nearly 6,000 African Union troops already deployed in the country, many of whom are expected to be incorporated into the new operation. A separate 2,000-member force sent by former colonial ruler France is authorized to support the U.N. mission.
The mineral-rich but deeply impoverished country plunged into anarchy when the Muslim-dominated Seleka rebel coalition seized power in March 2013.
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was accused by human rights groups of failing to rein in abuses by his followers, who raped, looted and killed. After his government collapsed in January, local self-defense groups made up mostly of Christians and animists turned their fury on Muslim civilians, whom they accused of supporting the rebels.
People have been hacked to death by machete-wielding mobs. Homes, businesses and places of worship have been ransacked and set on fire. The scale of the violence has led to an exodus of Muslims from western parts of the country, which U.N. officials have described as “ethnic-religious cleansing.”
During a visit to the Central African Republic on Saturday,U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the French and African troops in the country were “overwhelmed.” He urged world leaders to heed the lessons of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when more than 800,000 people died after majority Hutus went against minority Tutsis.
“The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago. And we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the CAR today,” Ban said.
SOURCE: Alexandra Zavis
The Los Angeles Times