The European Union announced on Tuesday that it is launching an immediate military operation in the Central African Republic (CAR) to help restore order to the country, which has been wracked by months of inter-religious violence.
The military operation, which has already been approved by the UN Security Council, will be based out of CAR’s capital Bangui, and will consist of a force of up to 1,000 troops.
According to a statement released by the EU, the operation’s main objective will be to reinforce international efforts to protect populations most at risk by the fighting, as well as to facilitate humanitarian aid into the country.
“The launch of this operation demonstrates the EU’s determination to take full part in international efforts to restore stability and security in Bangui and right across the Central African Republic,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
“It is vital that there is a return to public order as soon as possible, so that the political transition process can be put back on track,” she said.
Violence first erupted in CAR nearly a year ago, after Seleka rebels, a loose coalition of predominantly Muslim groups from the north, seized control of the country. A number of abuses were committed against the majority Christian population, triggering a wave of revenge attacks by a militia known as the “anti-balaka” and other armed groups. The unrest has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more, raising fears of ethnic cleansing.
Around 2,000 French troops and a force of 6,000 African Union peacekeepers already on the ground in CAR have struggled to halt the violence.
According to Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, a spokeswoman for the UN’s refugee agency, anti-balaka pose a particular threat to Muslims in Bangui’s PK12 neighbourhood, as well as in the nearby towns of Boda, Carnot, Berberati and Bossangoa.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-01