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C.Africa in dire need of peacekeepers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Top UN officials said Thursday a peacekeeping mission is essential for stabilizing Central African Republic and aiding civilians -- but there will be no "quick fix" there.

The nearly 12,000 peacekeepers the United Nations hopes to deploy by September will be operating in "a particularly challenging environment," UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said at the Security Council.

The council was holding its first discussions on a proposal to send some 10,000 soldiers and 1,820 police to help restore order in Central African Republic, a country that has descended into chaos and sectarian killing over the past year.

The council is expected to approve the deployment -- backed by a report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- in a vote sponsored by France by the end of the month.

The operation "will be costly, but waiting to respond could be even more so," urged Ladsous, citing the conflict's "potential negative impact on regional stability," including splitting the country and creating a breeding ground for extremists.

And given the approximately six months required to get a UN force ready, Ladsous called for urgently sending "rapid and generous financial support" to MISCA -- the 6,000-strong African Union force already in Central Africa.

There are also some 2,000 French soldiers there. Most of the future UN force is expected to come from the current ranks of MISCA.

Ladsous said the current deployment of international security forces is not sufficient and lacks the civilian component," which would help the transitional government in Bangui rebuild and help organize elections.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos also emphasized that the Central African government "has no capacity to stop the spiral of violence."

And in order to effectively deliver aid, particularly for the 640,000 people displaced by the fighting, security must be restored, she said.

Currently, for instance, the road between Douala, in neighboring Cameroon, and Bangui, is unsafe, meaning aid must be delivered by airplane -- at nearly eight times the cost.

Aid efforts are also dramatically underfunded, officials said, with just 16 percent of the $551 million the UN has requested.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres -- who, like Amos recently traveled to Central Africa -- told the council he does "not remember any visit in my eight year tenure that caused me more anguish."

"I was deeply shocked by the barbarity, brutality and inhumanity that have characterized the violence in this country," he said.

Guterres also called for more financial support for neighboring countries which have taken in some 290,000 refugees -- including 130,000 in Cameroon alone.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140306/cafrica-dire-need-peacekeepers