Addis Ababa - The African Union will form a new 3 600-strong peacekeeping mission for Central African Republic to step up efforts to stabilise the fractious country, officials say.
Admore Kambudzi, secretary of the AU's Peace and Security Council, said an existing regional peacekeeping mission known as Micopax would be rolled into the larger new force from August.
He said its mandate would be to protect civilians and help stabilise the country and restore the central government in the former French colony, which is rich in gold and diamonds.
Central African Republic, a nation of 4.5 million at the heart of the continent, has suffered decades of instability.
Seleka rebels toppled the president in March, causing chaos and a humanitarian crisis.
Ramtane Lamamra, commissioner of the Peace and Security Council, said 2 600 troops contributed voluntarily by AU members would be sent to beef up the roughly 1 100 troops in Micopax.
The United Nations says more than 49 000 refugees have fled to neighbouring states since December, mainly Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Cameroon and Congo Republic.
More than 200 000 people have been displaced within the country.