On 25 November, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson warned that the Central African Republic (CAR) is descending into “complete chaos” and that the situation “may develop into a religious and ethnic conflict”, that could affect the entire region, creating a breeding ground for extremists.
Over 395,000 people are internally displaced in the CAR, with over 67,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that "indescribable atrocities" are taking place through what are increasingly sectarian attacks and reprisals between Muslim and Christian groups.
The Séléka rebels, once centrally controlled and responsible for orchestrating a military coup in March this year, have divided into smaller militia that are targeting the majority Christian population. In the security vacuum left after the coup, Christians are forming "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) self-defence groups to protect themselves and retaliate against the Séléka rebels.
Over the past weeks, the UN Security Council has been warned by several senior UN officials about the escalating conflict and the potential for genocide in the CAR. Yesterday, Mr Eliasson advised the Security Council that a UN peacekeeping force of at least 6,000 troops was needed to stabilise the country and protect the population from atrocities. At this point, only a small African Union support mission has been deployed, with some support from French troops.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Council to take decisive action to prevent a further degeneration of the crisis, stating that "there is a chance to work together to reverse the downward spiral in the CAR and to set the country on a path toward peace and stability. Time is of the essence. We cannot let the people of the CAR down at this moment of pressing need."
UNA-UK’s Responsibility to Protect Programme Officer, Alexandra Buskie, wrote about the situation in the CAR for the Huffington Post UK.
The UN Security Council authorised a strengthened peacekeeping force with a robust mandate for civilian protection for the CAR on 5 December 2013. The force is to be led by the African Union but bolstered by French support and will double the current number of troops to 2,400.
The resolution also imposes a prohibition on the sale or transfer of weapons of all types to the CAR and calls for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by all parties to the conflict.
The Council also firmly condemned the widespread human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Séléka rebels, the anti-balaka groups and the Lord's Resistance Army.
The representative for the CAR Government at the United Nations said that the resolution "gave his people reason to hope for a new dawn". The consensus demonstrated by the Council represents the first step in reducing the sectarian violence in the CAR.
Photo credit: hdptcar