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Central African 'tragedy' under spotlight

22 October 2013, 07:32

N'Djamena - The Central African Republic's neighbours were meeting in Chad on Monday to discuss boosting an African peacekeeping force to protect citizens from roving armed gangs sowing terror in the country.

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, a key backer of the regime in Bangui which came to power in a bloody March coup, called the meeting of the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

It comes as EU ministers said on Monday the UN-ordered African-led stabilisation force MISCA requires "urgent operational implementation", declaring deteriorating security "alarming".

The EU states added that the entire population is considered now to be "in a situation of grave risk."

A Chadian diplomatic source said "the heads of state will study the issue of reinforcing MISCA, which currently counts 2 588 men and is due to become 3 652 strong."

Regional leaders "should pass a resolution asking the United Nations to give MISCA a robust mandate to take action against uncontrolled elements in the CAR", the source added.

Since the Seleka rebel coalition overthrew president Franois Bozize on March 24 and brought Michel Djotodia to power, the population has been "living a tragedy" at the hands of armed gangs, a UN emergency aid mission said on Saturday.

Ten percent of the population of five million in the poor, landlocked country have been displaced by violence, according to the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) last week said that "tens of thousands of villagers have fled a fresh wave of summary executions", which the charity blamed on both armed groups and government forces.

Mobilise resources

The African troops have been attempting to restore security and to disarm the fighters amid fears that conflict may degenerate into a religious war pitting the CAR's Christian majority against Muslims, who formed the bulk of Djotodia's fighters.

Djotodia, the first Muslim leader of the CAR, was reluctantly recognised by Western nations in exchange for a broad-based government and a pledge not to stand in elections when the interim period ends next year.

Under international pressure, Djotodia has officially disbanded the Seleka alliance, but some former rebel commanders have gone rogue and established mini-fiefdoms.

Endless atrocities carried out by ex-rebels and the other armed gangs that roam the interior have helped provoke communal violence, along with a very serious humanitarian crisis among a population already taxed by decades of rebellions, army mutinies and coups.

In this respect, ECCAS leaders will study "the matter of launching an appeal to the international community to mobilise resources pledged" to aid the CAR, but not yet forthcoming, a Chadian diplomatic source said.

Such humanitarian aid should "help the CAR to make it through and respect the transition period" that is set to lead to general elections in less than a year and a half, the source said.

Apart from the CAR, ECCAS includes Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Gabon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and the archipelago of Sao Tome and Principe.



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