Central African Republic in danger of repeating Rwanda, calls to step up disarmament of Christian and Muslim militias
The UN Security Council has authorised the deployment of 12,000 troops to the Central African Republic as violence across the fractured nation continues to increase and fears of a sectarian genocide mount.
The CAR has been beset by violence since Islamist extremist group Séléka drove out President Francois Bozizé in a coup in March 2013. Although the group has since disbanded, they have continued to target towns and villages across the country, which has inspired an opponent faction to rise up under the name anti-Balaka.
Sectarian violence between the two groups has quickly spread throughout the nation, displacing a staggering 980,000 civilians while a quarter of a million have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Congo.
Thousands have been killed, and aid agencies have labelled it a humanitarian crisis, with estimates that a quarter of the population, around 1.3 million people, are in desperate need of food, water and sanitation.
The UN responded to the crisis in December last year by authorising a proposal to increase the number of French and African Union troops in the CAR and giving them a mandate to disarm militia groups.
Yesterday, however, the Security Council voted to send 12,000 extra troops to the region, and has authorised French soldiers to "use all necessary means" to support the AU.
In an article for the BBC, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warns that the international community must act urgently to prevent atrocities of the past from repeating themselves.
"Will national leaders heed the lessons of the past and prevent another Rwanda in our time?" he asks.
"Atrocity crimes continue. The justice system has crumbled. Ethno-religious cleansing is a reality. Whole communities have been dismantled," he says of CAR, adding that he was told "harrowing tales of sexual violence, kidnapping and constant threats on their lives" by civilians on a recent visit.
Following yesterday's announcement, Christian Aid praised the Council's decision while urging the UN to increase the protective measures which it believes still to be woefully inadequate.
"We welcome the Security Council's intervention but the peacekeepers won't arrive until September," emergency officer for Central Africa Salome Ntububa explains.
"In the interim period we strongly urge the UN to provide greater protection to the 280,000 internally displaced persons who have sought refuge in the capital Bangui, as well as the 700,000 others scattered throughout the country.
"We also call on the UN to step up the disarmament of Christian and Muslim militias in order to allow the transitional government to prepare for the forth-coming democratic elections.
"Human rights abuses are escalating and hundreds of people are reported to have been killed every day. Humanitarian assistance is critical."