The UN secretary general has called for 3,000 more peacekeepers to be deployed to the Central African Republic. UN officials have said the current force is not big enough to maintain stability in the war-torn country.
Speaking before the UN Security Council on Thursday, Ban Ki-Moon called on the international community to "act decisively now" in order to prevent the Central African Republic from sliding even further into chaos, calling the ethnic violence there "a calamity with a strong claim on the conscience of humankind."
The secretary general called for 3,000 additional troops equipped with "air mobility" to be deployed to the country, which has been torn by violence between minority Muslims and majority Christians for months. Ban said that he was also working on a blueprint for a peacekeeping operation with a "robust mandate."
"Time is of the essence," Ban said. "A delay of a week or even a day can mean the difference between life and death for many people."
Not enough troops
France has already promised to beef up its troop contingent in the Central African Republic to 2,000 military personnel, while the EU has agreed to send 1,000 troops. Some 6,000 African Union peacekeepers are also operating in the country.
According to UN humanitarian chief Valeria Amos, the French and African Union troops are doing a "good job" but need reinforcements.
"There aren't enough troops on the ground," Amos told reporters. "So there are discussions going on right now about how we can further support those forces immediately with additional personnel."
Nation in turmoil
The Central African Republic descended into political turmoil last March when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew the government and installed Michel Djotodia as president. Factions within Seleka subsequently went on a pillaging and killing spree, prompting Christians to form self-defense militias.
Unable to stop the violence, Djotodia was forced to step down under international pressure last month and was succeeded by an interim president, Catherine Samba Panza.
The violence has forced around 1 million people to flee their homes while 1.3 million are in immediate need of food aid, according to the United Nations.
slk/crh (AFP, dpa)
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