UN mulls sending troops to Central African Republic

The EU is expected to send up to 1 000 soldiers to help stabilise Central African Republic. (Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

The EU is expected to send up to 1 000 soldiers to help stabilise Central African Republic. (Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

Europe cannot leave France alone in its bid to restore order in the strife-torn Central African Republic, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an interview to be published on Sunday.

"Europe cannot leave France on its own there," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

It is in Europe's interests to restore order in the country, because "when instability, displacement and terrorism threaten Africa, the consequences will arrive in Europe", he added.

Steinmeier's remarks come as EU foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss deploying troops to support French and African soldiers in the landlocked country ripped apart by bloody sectarian clashes.

The German foreign minister also said that the 28-member bloc should consider giving more support to France's deployment in Mali.

France launched a military offensive in its former colony in January 2013 to repel an Islamist advance following instability sparked by a coup.

The operation has been widely hailed as a success for stopping al-Qaeda-linked militants and Tuareg rebels from descending south of the sprawling country and advancing on the capital Bamako.

"We should consider the possibility of greater support, such as in Mali," said Steinmeier.

UN peacekeeping

European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday that CAR could still be saved from becoming another failed state like Somalia, but it probably will require the deployment of a strong United Nations peacekeeping operation.

Waves of attacks by Muslim and Christian militias have killed hundreds, if not thousands, in Central African Republic since rebels seized power in March 2012. A UN official warned on Thursday of the risk of a genocide.

Georgieva, who has visited CAR twice since the crisis erupted, told Reuters in an interview that initially people were wary of speaking out about the sectarian violence because they were concerned it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, like "pulling the tail of the devil".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to submit a report to the Security Council next month with recommendations for a possible UN peacekeeping force that would take over from the African troops.

"The option of a UN peacekeeping operation must be looked into very seriously," Georgieva said.

"While it is very good for Africans to help each other, Central African Republic, being where it is, makes it more difficult, more complex for an African solution because of the complicated relations between Chad and Central African Republic," she said.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that a UN human rights team has gathered testimony that Chadian citizens, including peacekeepers, carried out mass killings.

CAR - with a population of 4.6-million - lies at a crossroads of conflict in the heart of Africa, with Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia to the east, the Islamist threat in the Sahel region to the north-west and the revolts of the Great Lakes to the south-east.

"The Central African Republic is bad, but it is not yet Somalia, it is not yet al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram territory. We act now, it doesn't turn into one, but it would take a very strong effort," Georgieva said.

Georgieva is due to host an aid conference on the Central African Republic in Brussels on Monday.

"The donor community now has a chance to redeem itself because CAR has been an aid orphan for many, many, many years and that has contributed to the weakness of the country, it has been forgotten by the world," she said.

Deadly attack

Meanwhile, Save the Children said gunmen attacked Muslims fleeing sectarian violence and killed 10 people including three children.

Country director Robert Lankenau said Friday's attack demonstrated that African and French peacekeepers are not reaching remote areas where violence goes unseen.
He said the situation was "still fraught and highly dangerous".

Lankeanu said in a statement on Saturday night that Save the Children was treating about 50 injured survivors at a hospital in north-western Bouar town. – Sapa-AP, Reuters, AFP

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