The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved on Thursday the creation of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic to try to stop violence between Christians and Muslims that has threatened to spiral into genocide.
The 15-member council authorized a U.N. force, to be known as MINUSCA, of up to 10,000 troops, 1,800 police and 20 corrections officers.
France, the landlocked country's former colonial power, will have a separate 2,000-strong force, which will be authorized to use “all necessary means” to support the new U.N. forces.
The Central African Republic has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when primarily Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and launched a brutal regime. Christian militiamen calling themselves the anti-Balaka attacked Seleka strongholds in the capital, Bangui, in early December, and as the rebel government crumbled in January the anti-Balaka stepped up the violence, forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee.
The draft resolution expresses serious concern at multiple violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by both former Seleka elements and anti-Balaka militia including killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, sexual violence against women and children, rape and attacks on civilians, "in particular but not limited to Muslims," and attacks on places of worship.
The draft resolution "demands that all militias and armed groups put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately and release children from their ranks."
The Security Council wants a strong mandate, and the draft would authorize the new U.N. force to protect civilians and support the disarmament of combatants and the restoration of peace and law and order. It would also authorize MINUSCA to help investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law by armed groups including former Seleka rebels and the anti-Balaka.
While U.N. peacekeepers and police will not take over until Sept. 15, the draft resolution will establish the U.N. mission immediately. It will take over all activities of the U.N. political office in the capital, Bangui, including supporting the political transition process, humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring.
The draft welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for "revitalization and acceleration of the political and reconciliation process in order to lay the ground for an end to the conflict," and it urges the transitional authorities to accelerate preparations for free and fair elections no later than February 2015.
Once MINUSCA is established, the African Union force on the ground will receive logistical support from the United Nations. Many of its members are likely to become part of the new U.N. force after being checked to ensure they meet U.N. standards.
The draft resolution stresses that "all perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable and that some of these acts may amount to crimes under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court."
The draft notes that the Central African Republic is a state party to the ICC, and the court's prosecutor has opened a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in the CAR since September 2012.
Al Jazeera and wires services