UN chief to visit CAR amid tense security situation

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is expected to arrive in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, as violence between Muslim and Christian militias has intensified in the past few months.

“This is a gesture of solidarity with the peacekeepers working in one of the most dangerous environments,” Guterres said in an interview with AFP and Radio France Internationale (RFI).

His trip to one of the world’s poorest countries will be his first as part of a peacekeeping mission since taking office on January 1 but he regularly visited the country as former head of the UN refugee agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The secretary general’s visit comes at a time when the United Nations faces a precarious financial situation, as the United States pushes for cost-cutting measures in peacekeeping.

The international body has maintained some 12,500 troops and police on the ground in the Central African Republic since September 2014 to help protect civilians and support the government of Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected last year.

Its mandate expires on November 15, 2017 but is expected to be renewed.

For Guterres whose visit coincides with “United Nations Day” marking the entry into force of the UN charter “the level of suffering of the people but also the trauma suffered by aid workers and peacekeepers are deserving of our solidarity and heightened attention.”

One of the world’s poorest nations, the Central African Republic has been struggling to recover from a three-year civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias that started after the 2013 overthrow of leader Francois Bozize.

Between 2013 and 2016, acting under a UN mandate, France intervened militarily to push out the Muslim Seleka rebels and the United Nations launched its Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) peacekeeping mission in 2014 but the country remains plagued by violence.

Since May, renewed clashes in the southeast have pitted armed groups against each other as they compete for control of natural resources and areas of influence, while claiming to protect communities.

MINUSCA said Friday that at least 26 people were killed during clashes in the town of Pombolo, while another 11 were wounded.

Since the beginning of the year, 12 aid workers and 12 peacekeepers have also been killed six peacekeepers alone in Bangassou where Guterres is expected to make a stop.

– By AFP