African Union seeks more troops as vote approaches

January 16, 2014 - 12:28:16 pm
BANGUI: The African Union called yesterday for more troops to help stabilise the conflict-torn Central African Republic, which remains tense as its transitional parliament prepares to elect a new interim president.

With three days to go until the key vote, an official from the continental bloc told leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes region that the AU-backed MISCA force — which currently has 4,400 soldiers and struggled to contain the country’s descent into a sectarian bloodbath — needed more troops.

“The AU calls on your authority to provide the means for MISCA — whose numbers were projected at 6,000 — to comfortably pursue its mandate,” AU special representative for the Great Lakes Boubacar Diarra told a summit in Angola.

“The commission of the AU... would like to call on your conference to allow MISCA to deploy to its fullest capacity and contribute together with (French force) Sangaris... to definitively stabilise the situation.”

The call came as the transitional parliament continued meetings to choose a new interim president for the country, where a terrifying spiral of atrocities erupted after a rebel coalition called Seleka installed its leader, Michel Djotodia, as the majority-Christian country’s first Muslim president in March.

The parliament adopted rules for the vote barring anyone from running who has been in a rebel group or militia in the past 20 years.

“That’s a lot of people in the Central African Republic,” said one lawmaker. The poor, landlocked country of 4.6 million people has a long history of coups and rebellions.

The 135 lawmakers also came under international pressure to abstain from running themselves in the vote, which is scheduled for Saturday. “The international community calls on the National Transitional Council not to act as judge and jury in an essential election for the strategic continuation of the transition,” said Noel Essongo, representative for a committee on the crisis that represents France, the UN and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). AFP