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Kerry warns of 'increasingly sectarian' Central Africa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed a lack of confidence Wednesday in the Central African government to contain an "increasingly sectarian" crisis, and pledged aid to a peacekeeping force.

Rebels overthrew the Central African Republic's (CAR) president in March, and a transitional government has lost all grip on the huge but impoverished country of 4.5 million people with retaliatory attacks between Muslims and Christians.

"I am deeply concerned by the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic and the deplorable levels of violence and lawlessness that affect millions of people every day," Kerry said in a statement.

"At this moment, the United States sees no evidence that the CAR transitional government has the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government."

Violence is worsening in the resource-rich country where a coalition of rebels, known as Seleka, forced president Francois Bozize to flee in March.

Kerry's comments came just a day after his deputy for African affairs, Robert Jackson, warned that the crisis had devolved into a "pre-genocidal situation."

Kerry said the State Department plans to provide $40 million in funding to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission known as MISCA to "help protect civilians and provide security throughout the country."

The assistance will support logistics, non-lethal equipment, training and planning, Kerry said as he voiced confidence in the mission.

"In the immediate term, we believe that MISCA is the best mechanism to help quickly address the ongoing violence in the CAR and prevent further atrocities," he said.

"MISCA is also in the best position to help establish an environment that allows for the provision of humanitarian assistance and an eventual political transition to a democratically elected government."

The US government has provided more than $24 million in humanitarian aid to support food and health services among others, according to the State Department.

An additional $6 million was allocated to help refugees -- with an estimated 400,000 internally displaced persons and more than 220,000 CAR refugees in neighboring countries.

"We call on the region and the international community to support and fully deploy MISCA in order to restore security in the country," the US diplomatic chief said.

"We will continue to work with others in the region and the international community to implement a credible political transition and assist the people of the CAR who have suffered so greatly in this conflict."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131120/kerry-warns-increasingly-sectarian-central-africa