The United Nations Security Council has given the green light to French and African troops deployed to the restive Central African Republic to use force to protect civilians, with the French president announcing "immediate" action late Thursday.
The UNSC also imposed an arms embargo on the landlocked, mineral-rich African state and asked the United Nations to prepare for a possible peacekeeping mission.
French President Francois Hollande announced "immediate" French military action shortly afterwards, according to AFP.
The UN's resolution displayed "particular concern at the new dynamic of violence and retaliation and the risk of it degenerating into a country-wide religious and ethnic divide, with the potential to spiral into an uncontrollable situation." Senior UN officials have even warned that the situation in the Central African Republic could descend into genocide.
Earlier in the day, the French army deployed 250 troops to the capital of the Central African Republic. The decision followed clashes that broke out between former rebels and militias in Bangui.
The troops, deployed to secure and patrol were part of a force of 600 French troops already in the country. Ministry spokesman Gilles Jarron said that the clashes between former rebels controlling the city and militias were continuing.
“We have to end this humanitarian catastrophe and restore security,” Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, told BFM-TV, adding that in total 1,200 French soldiers would be deployed over the course of the mission.
At least 105 people were killed and others wounded in Bangui
violence which took place Thursday, witnesses and an aid worker
told Reuters. The victims of the fighting included women and
children. One correspondent counted 53 bodies at a mosque in
Bangui's PK5 neighborhood, with the majority of the victims
having apparently been clubbed or hacked to death. PK stands for
Point Kilometer, and number 5 is considered the commercial center
Medical charity Medicines Sans Frontiers’ (Doctors Without Borders) Samuel Hanryon counted 52 more bodies at Bangui's Hospital Communautaire's morgue.
CAR’s Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye called for the immediate deployment of troops and the MISCA force. “What I demand of the international community, once the resolution is adopted, is to act immediately, that is to say deploy the MISCA and French forces to stabilize the situation,” Tiangaye told Reuters mere moments before the authorization occurred.
Britain's military also stated on Thursday that it was in talks with France over the provision of "limited logistical support" amid reports that a C-17 transport plane would be sent, according to AFP. However, sending combat troops is not considered to be an option.
Chaos ensued after President Francois Bozize was ousted by rebels in March. Michel Djotodia installed himself as the first Muslim leader in a country with a Christian majority. Thursday’s attack was reportedly an organized attempt by supporters of Bozize to unseat the transitional government.
While it remains unclear who is politically in control even in the capital, the nation has been swept by religious violence.
There have been attacks on Christians by Muslim ‘Seleka’ fighters – the unified group, of which Djotodia was head until he apparently disbanded it in September. Some of its members have been absorbed into the army and many refused to lay down arms.
Christian militants responded to the escalating violence with their ‘anti-balaka’ group, which has been held partially responsible for Thursday’s violence.
‘Balaka’ means ‘machete’ and it is thought that it was formed as a defense against Seleka attacks. However, it is also thought to be receiving help from Bozize allies.
The anti-balaka fighters have been held responsible for killings of the Muslim civilian population; Muslims generally state that they too have been victims of the Seleka and that they are receiving the blame for the sect’s destruction.
Over the course of the violence, some 400,000 people have been displaced.