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Region urges CAR peacekeepers to step up

22 October 2013, 11:40

N'Djamena - The Central African Republic's neighbours on Monday pleaded for more robust action by a regional peacekeeping force to help Bangui stamp out roving armed gangs sowing terror in the country.

At a summit in Chad, the 10-nation ECCAS regional grouping demanded that the beleaguered MISCA force deploy fully and repel the foreign armed groups that have been pouring in since a March coup.

"Heads of state and government demand that the MISCA force deploy throughout the Central African Republic [CAR], disarm and drive out all foreign armed elements without delay," a statement said.

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) promised to provide aerial support to the 2 500-strong International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA).

It called for more funding and logistical support for the force, which has not yet reached its planned full strength of 3 600 and has remained unable to stem spiralling chaos.

The region's heads of state echoed demands from former colonial power France for a more robust mandate under the United Nations charter's Chapter 7 for the contingent to use force against armed gangs.

Neighbouring Chad, a key stakeholder in Bangui, called the summit, which also demanded that the ex-rebel president now in power lay out a detailed roadmap leading to free polls by the end of next year.

European Union ministers, also calling for MISCA's rapid mobilisation, warned on Monday of an "alarming" deterioration and said the entire population was now at "grave risk".

France, which has warned the country risked becoming another Somali-style "failed state", has already vowed to boost its own troops contingent.

Fresh wave of summary executions

The CAR, a vast territory in the heart of equatorial Africa, has borders with six countries, including chronically unstable states such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some of the violence that has gripped the country in recent months - including executions, rape and pillaging - has been attributed to armed groups from Sudan, Chad and other foreign countries.

Since the Seleka rebel coalition overthrew president Francois Bozize on March 24 and brought to power Michel Djotodia, who was present at the meeting, 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 UN.

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

Pro-government troops have attempted to restore security 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 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.

The new government's regular forces have little reach beyond Bangui.

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

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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