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UN authorises military action in Central African Republic

  • 06-12-2013 10:47am
    Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 2,688 Mod ✭✭✭✭

    UN votes to increase military action in Central African Republic to attempt to combat "complete chaos" that has enveloped country

    The UN Security Council has authorised increased military action by France and African troops to try to end the crisis in the Central African Republic.

    The council unanimously approved a French-sponsored resolution Thursday aimed at restoring security and protecting civilians in the impoverished country.

    The authorisation is expected to lead to an increase in troops for an African Union-led force and French troops.

    The vote came as French troops continued to pour into the CAR amid an outbreak of violence near the capital Bangui's airport and in suburbs in the city's north and east.

    At least 105 people and likely many more were killed during Thursday morning’s fighting, the worst day of violence in Bangui, for several months.

    Collected in a mosque and strewn in the streets nearby were 80 bodies with gunshot and machete wounds, and Medecins Sans Frontieres reported another 16 in two of the city’s hospitals.

    An existing 10pm to 6am curfew was extended by four hours, with Michael Djotodia, the president, ordering the capital’s citizens indoors by 6pm.

    Already, the streets were empty except for military patrols including the armoured vehicles of 250 French troops in Bangui as the vanguard of the force that is expected by the weekend to increase to 1,200 soldiers.

    Rebel gunmen in pick-up trucks toured suburbs that they controlled, as the fighting waned at lunchtime. It had begun before dawn and lasted several hours.

    MSF was treating 65 injured people at one Bangui hospital, Sylvain Groulx, its Central African Republic coordinator said.
    “The volatile situation in Bangui means it is difficult to report a reliable number of dead and wounded at this time,” the organisation said in a statement.

    The fighting appeared to have started with Christian militia and supporters of the ousted president, Francois Bozize, began house-to-house searches for Muslim militants who backed Mr Djotodia, the rebels’ former commander.

    Those rebels, named Seleka, or “alliance” in a local language, then began fighting back.
    "There has been gunfire all over town," said Amy Martin, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangui.

    Christian vigilante militia and supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize were reportedly moving through areas recently controlled by Seleka rebels previously allied to the country's new leader, Michael Djotodia.

    The clashes appeared to have started in a stronghold of Mr Bozize, who fled the country in March as the Seleka alliance took control of Bangui and installed Mr Djotodia as leader. Home mostly to Christians, the area where the fighting began has been repeatedly raided by Seleka gunmen, who are mostly Muslim.

    Mr Djotodia, a former Seleka commander, ordered the disbandment of the rebel group after taking power. But the order was largely ignored and Mr Djotodia now appears to have lost control of his forces, which have been accused of mass murder, rape and looting.

    The Central African Republic has descended into what one UN official called "complete chaos" since March, with more than half a million people forced from their homes.

    France agreed to send 1,000 troops to help bring order, and allow an African peacekeeping force drawn from the Economic Community of Central African States to assert more control.

    The country is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium but decades of instability and spill-over from conflicts in its larger neighbours have kept it mired in crisis.

    Western powers are lobbying for decisive international action to prevent the anarchy in Central African Republic leading to major atrocities against the civilian population.

    Officials in Paris and Washington have already said the fighting could descend into genocide.

    As the Seleka rebels retreat ahead of the French and AU deployment, there are fears of widespread revenge attacks by Christians against Muslims, who make up 15 percent of the 4.6 million population.
    "When Seleka entered, there were dead Christians. This time it could be worse...We need the French.
    The French have to come quickly," Wilfred Koyamba, a resident of Bangui, said as Thursday's fighting continued.

    Another resident said he saw a group of about 40 Christian fighters in the Ngaragba neighbourhood, some in military fatigues others in jeans and shorts.
    Armed with AK47 assault rifles and rocket launchers, they broke open the doors to the prison. One of the fighters told the resident: "Stay at home. Show us the houses of the Muslims."