CAR needs many more peacekeepers - EU
29 November 2013, 12:11
Abidjan - The Central African Republic needs up to four
times more peacekeepers than are now deployed to quell a worsening sectarian
conflict and provide security for aid workers, the European Union's top
humanitarian official said.
The country has descended into chaos since the Seleka
coalition of rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted
President Francois Bozize in March.
France is preparing to boost its force in its anarchic
former colony to at least 1 000 soldiers once a UN resolution is passed next
week to improve security until a 3 600-strong African Union (AU) force is
Paris, which already has around 400 troops based at the
airport in the capital Bangui, has already started beefing up personnel and
equipment in the country, diplomatic sources said.
Two sources also said France's ambassador to Central African
Republic was being replaced, replicating a change of its envoy in Mali two
months after French troops launched a mission there earlier this year to oust
France's foreign ministry was not immediately available for
Around 2 500 regional peacekeepers deployed in the country
are to be brought into the AU force.
"Clearly what needs to be done is beefing up of
peacekeeping forces. Tripling or quadrupling what is there," EU aid chief
Kristalina Georgieva said, warning they face a twin risk of a Somalia-like
state collapse and potential genocide.
"Unless there is an immediate, significant change in
security conditions, these two risks can deepen so much that we have a tragedy
on our hands. And we'll look back and say 'why didn't we act sooner'," she
Some 460 000 people, a tenth of the population, have fled
the sectarian violence since the takeover by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels,
whose numbers Georgieva said had grown from around 5 000 fighters to some 20 000
Fearing that tit-for-tat killings could escalate into
full-blown war between the Christian majority and Muslims, who represent around
15% of the population, world powers are scrambling into action.
UN peacekeeping mission
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month ordered his
officials to start preparing for the likely deployment of a UN peacekeeping
mission. But African leaders want to give the AU force time to try to stabilise
"There has to be a commitment now - not in one month,
not in three months, now - to strengthen security," Georgieva told Reuters
late on Wednesday during a visit to Ivory Coast.
She said rapidly deteriorating security was already
hampering humanitarian assistance to the country of 4.6 million people and aid
agencies worried that their workers could soon become targets of militia
Two local employees of the French humanitarian organisation
ACTED were robbed and murdered in the country in September.
The French-drafted UN resolution would give a six-month
mandate for French troops and the African-led International Support Mission
(MISCA) to restore order, protect civilians and rebuild state authority.
"French troops will secure the main arteries and
secondary roads," said a French diplomatic source. "It's completely
feasible. This is neither al-Qaeda in Mali nor al Shabaab in Somalia. I wouldn't
say the Seleka is a flock of sparrows, but it should disband pretty