A senior churchman from the Central African Republic today called on the international community to help end the brutal violence gripping his country.
The Archbishop of Bangui, the Most Reverend Dieudonne Nzapailanga asked the United Nations to send an effective intervention force, with a mandate to use force where necessary to protect the people of Central African Republic (CAR):
"We urgently need a well equipped, well trained force under a clear command structure, with a specific and robust mandate to protect civilians from brutal attacks and rapidly restore security. To date the African Union forces have failed to provide this. We have the opportunity to prevent a rapid deterioration of the violence. The cost in delaying is incalculable."
As the country continues to spiral into chaos, 2.3 million people are now in dire need of healthcare, nutrition, shelter and protection from attacks and abuse. Catholic aid agency CAFOD is working through local church partners, including Archbishop Dieudonne, to provide that vital humanitarian assistance.
The conflict escalated after the Seleka militia ousted President Francois Bozizé in March, installing Michel Djotodia in his place. While the Seleka militia has officially been disbanded, its members and those of other armed rebel groups - estimated to number 23,000 - continue to spread terror across the country.
As of last month, only 2,200 personnel from the multinational force of Central Africa - known as FOMAC - had been deployed to respond to the crisis. Some national contingents of FOMAC are perceived locally to be ill-equipped, ineffective and poorly-trained, and there is evidence that some have been implicated in human rights violations.
The draft UN resolution on CAR calls for the current African Union force known as MISCA to be deployed at the full strength of 3,600 troops previously agreed, but this remains inadequate against the scale of the violence and numbers of armed militia seen in the country.
Archbishop Dieudonne said: "While we are relieved that the international community is finally turning its attention to Central African Republic, the expectations of the people are far greater. How can an under-equipped and limited force of 3,600 men establish peace and security in a large country like ours - two and a half times the size of Britain.
"Due consideration should be given to the proposal made by the UN General Secretary to increase the number troops to at least 9,000."
The UN Secretary General is due to report to the Security Council within three months with recommendations on whether to transform MISCA into a UN Peace Keeping force.
CAFOD urges the Security Council to include provisions for a six weekly review process of the performance of MISCA, taking the views of key civil society representatives, including the Catholic Church.
Catherine Mahony, CAFOD's Regional Emergency Coordinator said: "It's vital that civil society has a strong role in monitoring the effectiveness of this force. Our partners in the Catholic Church have been concerned that commitment to strengthening MISCA has to date been lacking. The current FOMAC forces have been ineffectual - we can't afford to lose more time, thousands of lives are at stake."
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