CAR Religious leaders welcome UN peacekeeping mission but warn of need for immediate reinforcements

(BANGUI) Senior faith leaders from the Central African Republic (CAR) welcomed the decision made today by the United Nations Security Council to deploy a peacekeeping operation to their war-torn country but warned that immediate reinforcements are needed to support the existing African Union MISCA force and prevent the slide into further chaos.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonÕs press encounter with religious leaders of CAR.Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui, said “we welcome the Security Council’s unanimous decision to establish a UN Peacekeeping Operation in the CAR, where ethnic cleansing is rife and the lives of thousands are at risk. However as the force will only be deployed by September at the earliest we urge that strong and immediate support be given to MISCA in order to improve security at this crucial time”.

Imam Omar Kobine Layama, the most senior Muslim leader in CAR, drew parallels with the Rwandan genocide and urged the UN to remain fully focused on bringing stability to the country; “this week’s commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is an important reminder of the risks that our country faces. The lesson from Rwanda is that a lack of political will and political engagement can lead to catastrophe. It is essential that the Security Council remains actively engaged on CAR and that this resolution is only part of a long term strategy to bring peace to our country”.

Meanwhile, Reverend Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou, the President of CAR’s Evangelical Alliance, highlighted the desperate situation on the ground saying that “over two million people in CAR need humanitarian assistance. We call on governments and international and regional organizations to fund the humanitarian community so that they can provide assistance to those in need”.

Over 2,000 people have been killed in fighting since December. In a visit to CAR last Saturday UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon warned that “we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the CAR today”, he commended the African Union and French forces for their efforts but observed that they are “under-resourced and overwhelmed” by the sheer scale of the crisis. MISCA currently has less than 6,000 troops helping to protect civilians and stabilize the country and is in urgent need of reinforcements, equipment and logistical support, particularly as Chad began withdrawing its 850 troops last week.