Barbara Starr, CNN, December 9, 2013
American military aircraft will fly African and European peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, which is in the midst of a bloody internal conflict between various proclaimed Christian and Muslim militias and other rebel factions.
The decision announced the Pentagon was followed by a statement from President Barack Obama, who called on the country’s citizens to reject violence and urged the transitional government to join “respected leaders” in Muslim and Christian communities in calling for “calm and peace.”
“Individuals who are engaging in violence must be held accountable in accordance with the law. Meanwhile, as forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians,” Obama said.
Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said “the United States is joining the international community” in aiding the peackeeping effort “because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe.”
Left uncontrolled, militia groups are uniting along religious lines. Christian vigilante groups have formed to battle Seleka, the predominantly Muslim coalition behind the President’s removal.
More than 400,000 people — nearly 10% of the population — have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution last week authorizing military intervention by an African Union-led force backed by French troops to protect civilians, restore humanitarian access and stabilize the country.
Violence on the ground, which has included machetes, knives, rifles and grenades, will be a “big factor” in any U.S. operation, a U.S. official told CNN.
“It’s a concern,” the official said.