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February 19, 2018

UN considers sending 900 extra peacekeepers to C. Africa

UN considers sending 900 extra peacekeepers to C. Africa
'UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C), seen here during a recent visit to Bangassou, a notorious hotspot in Central African Republic's bloody conflict, is urging an increase in the size of the UN peacekeeping force in the country ' - By: AFP ALEXIS HUGUET

'Jordanians peacekeepers meet Muslim refugees at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Bangassou, Central African Republic
' AFP / ALEXIS HUGUET
"'Jordanians peacekeepers meet Muslim refugees at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Bangassou, Central African Republic '"

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would bolster the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic with 900 extra troops to help protect civilians, according to the text obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

The measure follows a request from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who has warned of a risk of ethnic cleansing in parts of the impoverished African country.

The French-drafted resolution would extend the mission known as MINUSCA until November 2018 and increase the number of uniformed peacekeepers by 900, to a ceiling of 11,650, along with 2,080 police and 480 military observers.

The question is whether the United States will support a bigger mission in the Central African Republic after pushing for a $600-million cut to the UN peacekeeping budget this year.

Guterres, who last month paid a visit to the country, has said he expected a "positive understanding by all the members of the Security Council including the United States" on the need to shore up the mission.

The council is scheduled to vote on the resolution on November 15.

The Central African Republic has been struggling to return to stability since the country exploded into bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance.

France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka alliance but the country remains plagued with violence pitting groups competing for control of resources and areas of influence.

Ongoing clashes

The draft resolution expresses the council's "concern at the degradation of the security situation in the southeastern part and the northwestern parts of the CAR due to the ongoing clashes between armed groups."

It condemns widespread human rights violations including sexual violence against women by rebel groups and expresses grave concern over continued allegations of rape by MINUSCA peacekeepers.

During a council meeting on Monday, MINUSCA head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said the 900 extra peacekeepers "should include highly mobile troops that would provide the force with greater flexibility to rapidly deploy in areas of heightened threat to civilians."

Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who holds the council presidency in November, told reporters that there was "a fair amount of understanding" that the request for more troops "is a good one."

MINUSCA deployed in 2014 with a strong mandate to protect civilians, but the draft resolution would include language on ensuring the peacekeepers have a "robust posture."

The conflict has driven more than 600,00 people from their homes within the country and an additional 500,000 have crossed borders to become refugees. Half of the population, or 2.4 million Central Africans, are in need of aid.

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