C Africa asks UN to send more peacekeepers, ease arms embargo

President of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera. (Thierry Charlier, AFP)
President of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera. (Thierry Charlier, AFP)

New York  - The Central African Republic's president urged the United Nations on Friday to send more peacekeepers to his strife-torn country and ease an arms embargo in the way of equipping his weak army.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Faustin-Archange Touadera said a recent upsurge in violence was linked to a battle for control of the country's natural resources, implicitly rejecting the view that the clashes were sectarian.

"The humanitarian situation has seriously deteriorated in many areas of my country following an increase in violence," Touadera said during his second address to the annual gathering of world leaders following his election last year.

The "real" reason behind the renewed violence is "the plundering and fierce competition for the control and illegal exploitation of CAR's mineral wealth," he said.

More than 600 000 people have fled violence within the country and a further 500 000 have crossed borders as refugees, while 2.4 million people are in need of emergency food aid, he said.

The United Nations has warned that the flareup in violence was the "early warning signs of genocide" and is considering beefing up its 12 000-strong peacekeeping force in the country.

Touadera described the current force level as "insufficient" to protect civilians and said the number of peacekeepers should be "revised upwards," given the size of the country.

He called for an easing of a 2013 Security Council arms embargo to allow his government to purchase military equipment for his national army.

One of the world's poorest nations, CAR descended into war in 2013 following the overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

France intervened to stop the mass killing and last year shut down its Sangaris mission there.

Christians, who account for about 80% of the population, have organised vigilante units dubbed "anti-balaka," a reference to the machetes used by the Muslim rebels.

While Touadera's government remains in control in Bangui, its authority is weak outside of the capital where former Seleka groups and anti-balaka fighters have clashed.

At least 17 MINUSCA peacekeepers have been killed this year, raising alarm that the country is sliding back to the bloodletting that exploded in 2013.

CAR is also rich in diamonds, timber and gold.

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