UN votes for more troops to CAR

There are security concerns following Chad’s decision to withdraw its 850 troops.

A flag of the UNited Nations floats at their Geneva’s offices during the third day of face-to-face peace talks in Geneva on 27 January 2014. Picture: AFP.

BANGUI - The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to deploy a 12,000 strong peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic.

Clashes in Dekoa took place on Tuesday two days before an expected UN Security Council vote to create a UN peacekeeping force which will take over from African troops from mid-September.

It has also put a deadline of next year February for free and fair elections in the country where mounting violence between Christians and Muslims has brought countless killings, torture and sexual violence.

It will take at least four months to put the proposed UN peacekeeping troops and 1,800 police on the ground. They will take over from the 5,000 African Union peacekeepers soldiers already in the violence trodden country.

The 2,000 strong French force in the Central African Republic is authorised to use all necessary means to support the new UN force.

At least 13 people were killed when Christian militia forces attacked a town held by Muslim Seleka rebels in a rural area of Central African Republic, residents said on Thursday.

An 800-strong European Union force is also due to start deploying in the first week of May, subject to airlift capabilities, a force spokesman said.

Residents said the fighting in Dekoa, 300 km north of the capital Bangui, raged for hours when the 'anti-balaka' militia attacked Seleka positions in the early hours of the morning.

Seleka forces, supported by reinforcements from the town of Kaga-Bangoro 75 km to the north, drove back the militia attacks. With neither French nor African peacekeepers stationed in Dekoa, dozens of residents fled the fighting into the bush, according to the curee of the parish church.

"They were heavily armed. We pushed them back," a Seleka commander known as Colonel Ali said by telephone from the town.

Red Cross workers said they had buried eight civilians in Dekoa following the fighting. Residents said the death toll was at least 13 but many wounded had fled into the bush.

Killings have continued between the majority Christian population and increasingly isolated Muslim communities in the landlocked former French colony despite the presence of 2,000 French peacekeepers as well as 6,000 African Union forces, mostly deployed in Bangui and towns.

Two French soldiers were wounded in the legs on Wednesday in the capital when a man threw a grenade at them after he had been asked to disarm.

An interim government headed by Alexandre-Ferdinand has struggled to control the intercommunal violence, which has killed more than 2,000 people since December.

There are concerns about a security vacuum in the coming months following Chad's decision last week to withdraw its 850 troops due to controversy over a series of violent incidents involving its peacekeepers.

Some headquarters staff for the EU force arrived in Bangui on Saturday, to handle logistical preparations, liaison and reconnaissance.

The country, one of Africa's poorest despite reserves of gold and diamonds, was plunged into chaos when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013.

Christian militias, known as "anti-balaka," sprang up to ostensibly protect the Christian population after Seleka took to looting and killing but they now stand accused of human rights abuses as well.

How much protection UN troops will be able to offer remains an open question, as keeping civilians safe throughout the Central African Republic, especially in rural areas is already proven a difficult, if not impossible task.