UN vote Thursday on UN force for CAfrican Republic

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — France called for a vote Thursday on a resolution that would authorize a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to take over from an African force less than half its size in conflict-torn Central African Republic which has been wracked by ethnic violence.

France's U.N. Mission said Wednesday it expects the Security Council to unanimously approve the resolution authorizing 10,000 troops and 1,800 police to take over from more than 5,000 African Union soldiers on Sept. 15, with a mandate to protect civilians, support the disarmament of combatants, and a return to law and order.

The draft resolution welcomes France's reinforcement of its force in February to 2,000 troops and would authorize the French soldiers to use "all necessary means" to support the new U.N. force. Central African Republic has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and launched a brutal regime. Christian Anti-Balaka militiamen attacked Seleka strongholds in the capital, Bangui, in early December, and as the rebel government crumbled in January the anti-Balaka stepped up the violence, forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee.

The draft resolution "demands that all militias and armed groups put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately and release children from their ranks." While U.N. peacekeepers and police will not take over until Sept. 15, the draft resolution will establish the U.N. mission, to be known as MINUSCA, immediately. It will take over all activities of the U.N. political office in Bangui, including supporting the political transition process, humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring.

Once MINUSCA is established, the African Union force on the ground will receive logistical support from the United Nations. Many of its members are likely to become part of the new U.N. force after being checked to ensure they meet U.N. standards.

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