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UN Security Council OKs peacekeepers for CAR.

ByMichelle Nichols, Crispin and Dembassa-Kette

The United NationsSecurity Councilauthorized on Thursday the creation of a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in theCentralAfricanRepublic in a bid to end violence between Christians and Muslims that has threatened to spiral into genocide.

The mainly Muslim Seleka seized power a year ago, perpetrating abuses on the majority Christian population that triggered waves of revenge attacks, leading to thousands of deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

At least 13 people were killed whenChristian militiaforces, known as the "anti-balaka," attacked a town held by Muslim Seleka rebels in a rural area ofCentralAfricanRepublicearlier this week, residents said on Thursday.

The 15-memberSecurity Councilauthorized a UN force, to be known as MINUSCA, of up to 10,000 troops, 1,800 police and 20 corrections officers. It also authorizes French troops in the landlocked former French colony to support UN peacekeepers.

The UN operation will assume authority on Sept. 15 from theAfricanUnion's 5,600-strong MISCA force, which was deployed in December. The council wants the UN force to include "as many MISCA military and police personnel as possible."

"I'm happy for the arrival of the blue helmets because their presence here will give back hope to the population," said sociology studentJean Felix Keinam, 31, in the capital,Bangui. "We have seen the MISCA and (the French troops) try to restore security here, but they have failed."

BanguishopkeeperJonas Dekezendi, 42, was less enthusiastic. "These 12,000 blue helmets are going to change nothing. (The French troops) and MISCA came and it changed absolutely nothing -- people are still suffering," he said.

Killings have continued between Christians and the increasingly isolated Muslim communities in the impoverished country of 4.6 million people despite the presence of 2,000 French troops and theAfrican Unionforces. An 800-strongEuropean Unionforce is due to start deploying in May.

Top UN officials have warned that the violence in the large, sparsely populated country could become genocide.

'UNTOLD HORRORS'

During a brief visit toBanguion Saturday, UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moonsaid French andAfrican soldiers serving in theCentralAfricanRepublicare "overwhelmed" by the "state of anarchy" in the country.

After the vote on Thursday Ban called for more support for theAfricantroops until the UN force is operational.

"AfricanUniontroops supported by the French troops are doing tremendous work to protect the civilian population, but it's not yet enough," French UN AmbassadorGerard Araudtold reporters after theSecurity Councilvote on Thursday.

Araud said the UN peacekeeping operation would focus on protecting civilians, restoring law and order, supporting humanitarian aid access, monitoring human rights abuses and fighting impunity.

US Ambassador to theUnited Nations,Samantha Power, who visitedBanguion Tuesday for the second time, said the violence between Christians and Muslims had brought theCentralAfrican Republic"to the edge of disaster."

"Untold horrors continue in small villages throughout the countryside and more than 19,000 Muslims are trapped in the capital, too afraid of anti-balaka forces to leave their hiding places," Power told reporters.

There are concerns about a security vacuum in the coming months followingChad's decision last week to withdraw its 850 troops due to controversy over a series of violent incidents involving its peacekeepers.

"I think the Chadians offered significant solace to Muslims in theCentralAfricanRepublicso, notwithstanding some of incidents that occurred that caused great concern, there is a loss in seeing these troops depart," Power said.

ENORMOUS CHALLENGES

A UN report accused Chadian troops of killing 30 civilians and wounding 300 in an attack on a crowded market last month.

However, the country's withdrawal of its troops does not weaken its commitment or determination to help end the crisis, Chadian UN AmbassadorMahamat Zene Cheriftold the UNSecurity Council.

Until the UN force is in place, Cherif also appealed to the international community for more money and logistical support forAfricantroops in a bid to stop the violence against civilians, particularly the Muslim minority.

"While we wait for the effective deployment of MINUSCA, it is urgent for the international community to take significantly robust measures to put a stop to the massacres and the terrible scenes of lynching which have been perpetrated against the civilian population," Cherif told theSecurity Council.

The council resolution urges theCentralAfricanRepublictransitional authorities "to accelerate the preparations in order to hold free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential and legislative elections no later than February 2015."

GeneralMohamed Moussa Dhaffane, interim Seleka president, told Reuters on Thursday it was not possible to hold elections by February "because there is a large part of the population which are refugees outside the country."

"We cannot hold elections without these people," he said.

Foreign MinisterToussaint Kongo-Doudoutold reporters at theUnited Nationsthat while it was not up to the international community to solve the problems inCentralAfricanRepublic, the country needs help.

"The challenges are enormous, that's why we are very happy that the members of theSecurity Councilhave adopted that resolution because the U.N., we believe, is the only partner in the world today who can help us handle this crisis," he said.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Apr 10, 2014
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