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UN mulls 12,000 peacekeepers for Africa

United Nations, United States – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recommended Monday deploying nearly 12,000 peacekeepers in Central African Republic to re-establish order in a country that has erupted in chaos and sectarian killing.

The former French colony was thrown into turmoil after rebels from the mainly Muslim Seleka group seized power in a March 2013 coup, triggering Muslim-Christian violence that has left thousands dead and prompted fears of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

In a report to the 15 members of the UN Security Council, Ban specified that the peacekeeping mission should focus, in the initial stage, on ”the protection of civilians” as part of a ”military surge.” However, Ban warned that ”the scale of the needs in the CAR is daunting” and it is understood that even in the best case, UN peacekeepers couldn’t be deployed for another six months because of the time required to mount such an operation.

The mandate of the proposed force would be progressively expanded to support the political transition process, in particular restoring the government’s authority over the country and organizing elections. The peacekeeping force would also be charged with safeguarding the delivery of humanitarian aid, the respect of human rights and the return of the estimated quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people displaced by the violence. ”It is envisaged that the strength of the peacekeeping operation would comprise up to 10,000 troops and 1,820 police personnel,” and include logistical and transport support, such as helicopters, the report explained.

The deployment would be rolled out in stages. ”To deal with immediate security needs, there will be an initial surge of military personnel and corresponding military enablers,” the report said. ”Police will also be phased in and, as the security environment improves, should eventually replace the bulk of the initial military surge capacity,” first in the capital, Bangui, and then in the provinces.

Little by little, a large civilian component would be added, though the report does not specify exact numbers. These civilians — administrators, engineers, rights observers and lawyers – will be charged with helping organize elections, promoting national reconciliation and rebuilding a national government that hasn’t been effective for months and which no longer provides essential services for the population.

Ban said that he was ”deeply concerned about the dramatic deterioration of the situation” in CAR and paid tribute to French and African forces for ”their dedication and courage to implement their mandates.” An African Union-led force, MISCA, nearly 6,000-strong, is already engaged on the ground, as are 2,000 French soldiers from its Sangaris operation. ”In spite of the progressive effectiveness of MISCA and Sangaris, the current deployment of international security forces is not sufficient, and lacks the civilian component,” Ban said in the report. ”To address the current situation of violence and impunity, a military response alone will not be sufficient, no matter how robust,” he added, calling for police forces to help protect civilians.

The report gives no figures on the cost for such an operation, but a UN official said it would come to between $500 and $800 million a year. The Security Council will now be able to work on a draft resolution that would give a green light to the peacekeeping force Ban is requesting. France hopes to submit a text to its partners before the end of the month. The African Union would also have to accept turning over the reins of its operation to the United Nations: it is expected that most of the 6,000 MISCA troops would become UN peacekeepers. Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza said there was no chance of bringing rapid stability to the Central African Republic without ”massive support and assistance from the international community.”