Skip to main content

U.N. approves peacekeepers for Central African Republic

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Women and children wait in line in the Begoua district, northeast of Bangui, to receive aid Wednesday.
Women and children wait in line in the Begoua district, northeast of Bangui, to receive aid Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Council approves deployment of 11,800 peacekeepers to Central African Republic
  • Citizens must heed lessons from Rwandan genocide, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon says
  • Ban: "There has been total impunity -- zero accountability. This must change"
  • About 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, United Nations says

(CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force for the Central African Republic, where competing militias have been fighting for months.

The council approved the deployment of 11,800 peacekeepers to the country, where 6,500 African-led peacekeeping forces and about 2,000 French troops already have been operating. Additionally, the European Union is planning to deploy up to 1,000 troops.

Starting on September 15, the force will initially comprise up to 10,000 military personnel, including 240 military observers and 200 staff officers, and 1,800 police personnel, according to the resolution.

The Central African Republic, a former French colony, was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, ousted President Francois Bozize. They have since been forced out of power, but Christian and Muslim militias continue to fight for control.

HRW: People cheered lynching of Muslims
Archbishop and imam unite
U.N.: Half of all CAR. citizens need aid

To counter attacks on Christian communities by Seleka groups, vigilante Christian groups known as the anti-balaka, which translates to "anti-machete," have fought back.

Thousands have died during the fighting, and 2.2 million people, about half the country's population, are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

More than 650,000 people are still internally displaced, and nearly 300,000 have fled to neighboring countries in search of refuge.

Ban: Heed the lessons of the past

The spiraling ethnic violence in the Central African Republic has led some observers to fear another genocide like that seen in Rwanda exactly 20 years ago.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew that parallel Saturday when he visited the Central African Republic to focus the world's attention on the crisis.

He urged the country's citizens to "heed the lessons" of nearby Rwanda and stop committing violence and atrocities against their fellow countrymen.

"Do not repeat the mistakes of the past -- heed the lessons. The fate of your country is in your hands. The people of CAR should not be killing the people of the CAR," he said, according to a U.N. news release.

Ban warned that "ethno-religious cleansing is a reality" in the country and that anarchy now rules.

"Most members of the Muslim minority have fled. Muslims and Christians have been placed in mortal danger simply because of who they are or what they believe," he said.

"People have been lynched and decapitated. Sexual violence is on the rise. Gruesome acts have been committed while others cheered on the perpetrators. There has been total impunity -- zero accountability. This must change."

Rights group: Men and boys massacred

The U.N. vote comes a week after the group Human Rights Watch called for the international community to hasten the authorization and deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force to protect vulnerable people in remote areas.

In a report, it provided eyewitness accounts of the massacres of dozens of men and boys by militias in rural villages in the country's southwest, and said the African Union and French deployments were insufficient to safeguard the population.

Ban praised the work done by the French and African Union forces so far but acknowledged that they were "under-resourced and overwhelmed" by the sheer scale of the crisis.

Speaking Wednesday on a visit to the country, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said, "The world has not hesitated in the CAR as it did in Rwanda 20 years ago. However, it is obvious that the world has not done enough."

But, she said, the situation for civilians would be far worse if not for the presence of the existing peacekeeping forces.

U.S. support to the AU-led mission includes the donation of vehicles and radio equipment.

The U.N. resolution approved Thursday calls on the transitional authorities to step up preparations to hold "free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential and legislative elections" no later than February 2015.

Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of the national capital, Bangui, was recently installed as the country's interim President but faces a daunting challenge to restore stability to the country.

Last year's coup was the latest in a series since the country gained independence in 1960.

READ: EU launches military operation in Central African Republic

READ: U.N. chief warns against repeat of Rwanda in Central African Republic

READ: Rights group says Central African Republic militias massacre men, boys

CNN's Pierre Meilhan, Jason Hanna and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT