United Nations seeks soldiers for Africa security
BANGUI, Central African Republic — The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic is requesting about 750 more troops to help fill a “security vacuum” worsened by the withdrawal of U.S. special forces as violence surges again, according to a confidential cable obtained by The Associated Press.
The additional troops are needed in the southeast after the withdrawal this year of U.S. and Ugandan troops hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, according to the message from mission head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga to the U.N.’s head of peacekeeping operations in New York.
Hundreds of people have been killed since May, and more than half a million people have been displaced as largely sectarian violence moves into parts of Central African Republic that were spared the worst of the fighting that began in 2013. International observers warn that the country is approaching the levels of violence seen at the height of the conflict in 2014.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said he wanted to “shine a spotlight on an under-reported emergency” in Central African Republic, which has seen a 37 percent increase in refugees and displaced people in the past three months.
Rebel groups control an estimated 70 percent of the country, according to international human rights organizations. The U.N. mission has acknowledged that its authorized force of 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police is not enough in the country roughly the size of Texas.
The request for more troops would increase the total of uniformed peacekeepers to about 13,500.
“It’s pretty clear that the mission, with its current capacity, is overstretched,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Lewis Mudge. “They simply don’t have the means to address the increased attacks on civilians.”
The fighting is mostly between predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and majority Christian anti-Balaka fighters over resources and trade routes in the countryside.