Archbishop Tutu calls for decisive action in Central African Republic

Muslim families fearing militia attacks flee their homes in Central African Republic.Aurelio Gazzera | Caritas

The former Archbishop of Cape Town has called upon the UN Security Council to prioritise the restoration of peace in the Central African Republic (CAR), following almost a year of increasing bloodshed.

The CAR has been beset by violence since March last year, when a coalition of rebel groups led by Michel Djotodia under the Séléka banner drove out President Francois Bozizé in a coup.

Djotodia took control of a transitional government but eventually lost control of his Séléka forces. He officially disbanded the group in September, but its members have continued their attacks which have resulted in opponents forming against them under the name anti-Balaka.

The violence has spread throughout the country, and has escalated dramatically. Reports suggest that over a thousand have died in clashes in the capital city of Bangui alone in the past two months, and over 2.25 million - half the inhabitants of the African nation - are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Archbishop was speaking in his capacity as part of The Elders group of independent leaders founded by the late Nelson Mandela in 2007 to promote peace, bring justice and uphold human rights across the globe.

He urged the African Union, the UN and the EU to take decisive action in the CAR, asserting that they have a vital role to play "in restoring peace, getting help to those in need, and preparing for fresh elections".

"I pray that the people of the CAR will come to their senses soon and stop the bloodshed," he said.

He condemned the widespread human rights violations that have been reported in recent months, including sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and the beheading of children.

Chair of the Elders and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined the Archbishop in the call, asking the Security Council to "act swiftly and decisively and authorise the resources urgently needed to begin stabilising the CAR".

The UN has so far used its powers to enact several key policies in an attempt to end the crisis. On 28 January, the Security Council extended the peace building mandate of the UN in the CAR, adding travel bans and asset freezes to an arms embargo already in place and unanimously authorising the deployment of EU troops in an effort to quell the "continuing deterioration of the security situation".

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to give a report on the situation before the Security Council today, ahead of further action being taken by the UN.

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