Source: Aljazeera America
As the country spirals out of control, the UN mulls sending troops while women stage silent rally to protest violence
France will triple the number of its soldiers in the Central African Republic to 1,200 to bolster security after months of violence, the war-torn nation's prime minister said Monday.
The mineral-rich but impoverished nation of 4.6 million people has descended into chaos since Seleka rebels, many of them from neighboring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March.
Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had told him the reinforcements would arrive once the U.N. Security Council had voted on a resolution backing the force, which is likely to happen within two weeks.
"We spoke about the security question. France has 410 soldiers now in Bangui and that will be strengthened by 800, to take the number to 1,200. More if needed," Tiangaye told Reuters after meeting Fabius in Paris.
The U.S. State Department estimates that nearly 400,000 people have been displaced and 68,000 have fled to neighboring countries since Seleka leader and interim president Michel Djotodia lost control of his loose coalition of warlords.
The violence has increasingly pitted Seleka's mainly Muslim fighters against Christian militias. Christians make up half the population and Muslims 15 percent.
Tiangaye said the new troops would help secure the road from neighboring Cameroon to the riverside capital Bangui, allowing supply trucks into the landlocked country.
The deployment was expected to begin in December after the passing of a Security Council resolution authorizing French-backed African troops to intervene, Tiangaye said.
"What is unacceptable is that the situation has become worse and there are multiple crimes against humanity in the country and my concern is to put an end to this as quickly as possible," he added.
The African Union plans to deploy its own mission to the country, a 3,600-member force known as MISCA.
A draft resolution to authorize the AU force could be circulated among the 15 members of the Security Council as early as this week, U.N. diplomats said, ahead of the planned adoption in early December.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month said he had also ordered officials to start preparing for the likely deployment of a larger U.N. peacekeeping mission.
The initial strength of the force should be 6,000 troops and 1,700 police, with an option of increasing the size to 9,000 troops if the situation worsened, Ban added. U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson told the 15-member Security Council on Monday, however, that the transfer of MISCA to a U.N. peacekeeping operation would take some time.
Women protest violence
Civilians including women and children are bearing the brunt of a surge in violence in the Central African Republic, aid agencies have warned, with torched villages and abuses including murder, rape and torture.
A thousand women staged a silent rally outside parliament in the country Monday, their mouths bandaged in a mute protest against violence towards women.
"Stop violence against women. I am not an object," or "No to murders, torture, rape" read banners held by women of all ages and religions who planned to cover their mouths with white tape from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to make their case.
Held in Bangui as part of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the rally aimed to raise awareness of the spike in violence between the country's unidentified armed groups and former rebel fighters.