UN Moves Toward Backing Central African Peacekeepers

The United Nations Security Council took the first step toward deploying a UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, in an effort to prevent the mineral-rich nation from becoming a hub for terrorism and Islamic extremism in the region.

The UN’s top governing body unanimously voted to have Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submit a report within 30 days outlining possible steps to support the African Union’s planned Central African Republic peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA.

Today’s vote comes less than a week after U.S. special forces raided a Somali town in search of a leader of the Islamist group al-Shabaab, which said it carried out a deadly attack on a shopping mall in Kenya last month.

The Central African Republic, a landlocked country rich in diamonds and uranium, has a high potential to become the next Somalia as “the breeding ground for all terrorists” if lawlessness is permitted to continue without any action, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Sept. 25.

The Security Council said in August that “a total breakdown in law and order” in the Central African Republic posed a threat to regional stability.

The Obama administration is “deeply alarmed” by the prospect of the nation becoming “a safe haven for violent extremists,” U.S. envoy to the UN Samantha Power said Sept. 25. She referred to the Sept. 21 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya that killed at least 67 people to illustrate “how terrorist groups and other extremists take advantage of lawless or ungoverned spaces.”

The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960, with at least five battles for the capital, Bangui, taking place from 1996 to 2003.

’State of Anarchy’

The nation descended into a “state of anarchy and total disregard for international law” after former President Francois Bozize’s government was deposed by rebel Seleka forces earlier this year, according to the UN.

Seleka began its rebellion after accusing Bozize of failing to honor peace accords, one of which had helped form a unity government. The insurgents resumed combat in March, saying Bozize had failed to meet a new set of demands.

The African Union in July approved a 3,600-member peacekeeping force to help stabilize the country.

Ban’s report should outline “detailed options for international support to MISCA, including the possible option of a transformation of MISCA into a UN peacekeeping operation, subject to appropriate conditions on the ground,” according to the resolution passed today.

The Security Council will adopt a second resolution in mid-November deciding on the type of support to be provided to the Central African Republic, France’s UN envoy Gerard Araud said today.

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