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2nd LD Writethru: UN Security Council endorses mission for Central African Republic


2nd LD Writethru: UN Security Council endorses mission for Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved the African Union's (AU) International Support Mission in the Central African Republic ( MISCA) to protect civilians and provide security in the violence- ridden nation, tottering on the brink of anarchy.

The French-sponsored measure, authorizing the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, also allows participation of troops from France, the former colonial power, which in recent months dispatched hundreds of troops to help restore order in the poverty-stricken central Africa nation.

The resolution was approved as word was received on Thursday of heavy gunfire erupting in the national capital of Bangui resulting in as many as 100 deaths reported.

Currently there are about 2,500 AU troops and several hundred French forces. The combined forces were expected to go up to about 3,600, but a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month said as many as 6,000 to 9,000 troops may be needed.

The measure also opens the eventual possibility of "rehatting" of the AU force into a blue-helmeted UN peacekeeping operation.

"Once again the people of Bangui woke up to the sound of heavy weapons firing with lives being lost, people being wounded and displaced," Ambassador Charles-Armel Doubane of the CAR told council members right after the vote. But, with this resolution he expressed the hope that "the times of humiliation, of the serious violations of human rights, looting and destruction will soon finally be at an end."

"Voting for this resolution will give reasons to hope for a new dawn rising over the CAR," he said, adding the primary concern of citizens is security. "The events today in Bangui emphasize how important and urgent action is."

The crisis began about a year ago when rebels formed the Seleka coalition and in March overthrew the government of President Francois Bozize. But now President Michel Djotodia has little control over the predominantly Muslim renegade fighters.

Rebel forces have been accused of terrorizing the provinces, recruiting child soldiers, wiping out whole villages and committing atrocities.

"The Central African state has collapsed and is not able anymore to ensure the protection of its own population," said Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, which holds the presidency this month of the Security Council.

"The conflict is increasingly taking an inter-sectarian turn with violence erupting between Christians and Muslims," he told reporters outside the council chamber after the vote. "In this context history has told us that the worst may happen. History has told us that the Security Council needs to act."

The French diplomat pointed out the United Nations will manage a trust fund to "centralize financial contributions for the logistical support" of MISCA while commending all the African nations contributing to the force. It requested the UN "to prepare right away for the possibility of rehatting the African force."

"In the past several months France has actively engaged its international partners to raise their awareness about this forgotten crisis," said Araud, who recalled President Francois Hollande of France mentioned the CAR crisis in his September speech during the annual General Debate in the UN General Assembly.

"The adoption of this resolution today showed the efforts of France paid off," Araud said.

An arms embargo also was imposed for one year on the CAR, banning the sale to the nation of arms, ammunition and military equipment, training and technical assistance.

Ambassador Samantha Power of the United States said the resolution "reflects our shared belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the CAR."

Power recalled reports from Wednesday of "gruesome machete attacks north of Bangui," accounts of "tens of thousands of Christians sheltering in a church ... with thousands of their Muslim neighbors huddled similarly in a nearby mosque; all of them fearing the possibility of an attack on their lives."

According to Power, nearly half the population of CAR has been affected by the crisis, including 400,0000 people who have been displaced.

CAR has a population of 4.5 million people.