US backs 900 extra UN peacekeepers for C. Africa
The United States signaled on Tuesday it was ready to back a French-drafted UN resolution that would bolster the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic with 900 extra troops.
The Security Council is considering the measure following a request from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has warned of a risk of ethnic cleansing in parts of the impoverished African country.
The draft resolution would extend the mission known as MINUSCA until November 2018 and increase the number of uniformed peacekeepers by 900, to a ceiling of 11,650, along with 2,080 police and 480 military observers.
The United States, the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, said it was open to beefing up the mission after repeated calls for cuts to peace operations.
"The United States is not opposed in principle to a modest troop increase for MINUSCA, but only if the additional troops would help more than hurt the mission’s mandate," said a spokesperson for the US mission.
"That means any additional troops should maintain the highest standards of professionalism and refrain from incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, for which we have a zero-tolerance policy."
MINUSCA has been hit by a string of sex abuse allegations against its peacekeepers, prompting Guterres to step up measures to counter such misconduct.
The council is scheduled to vote on the draft resolution on November 15.
The United States has called for streamlining missions and was the driving force behind a $600-million cut to the UN peacekeeping budget this year.
- Ongoing clashes -
The Central African Republic has been struggling to return to stability since the country exploded into bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance.
France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka alliance but the country remains plagued with violence pitting groups competing for control of resources and areas of influence.
The draft resolution expresses the council's "concern at the degradation of the security situation in the southeastern part and the northwestern parts of the CAR due to the ongoing clashes between armed groups."
It condemns widespread human rights violations including sexual violence against women by rebel groups and expresses grave concern over continued allegations of rape by MINUSCA peacekeepers.
During a council meeting on Monday, MINUSCA head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said the 900 extra peacekeepers "should include highly mobile troops that would provide the force with greater flexibility to rapidly deploy in areas of heightened threat to civilians."
MINUSCA deployed in 2014 with a strong mandate to protect civilians, but the draft resolution would include language on ensuring the peacekeepers have a "robust posture."
The conflict has driven more than 600,00 people from their homes within the country and an additional 500,000 have crossed borders to become refugees. Half of the population, or 2.4 million Central Africans, are in need of aid.