A deployment of European troops to Central African Republic was approved by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday as the country struggles to cap violence between groups of Muslim and Christian fighters.
The move comes hours after French Ambassador Gerard Araud said the African Union’s current force, still below its ceiling of 6,000 peacekeepers, would be too low. Another 1,600 French troops, approved by the Security Council in December, are on the ground but spread thin. Calling the situation “very, very dire,” Araud said at least 10,000 U.N. troops would be needed.
Araud spoke to reporters after the meeting. “The European Union will protect these people and it will allow the French forces to deploy more strongly through the city of Bangui … and beyond Bangui to the rest of the country,” he said. “It’s really quite a challenge because there is an incredible amount of resentment and hatred between the two communities.”
Which European countries would contribute their troops, or when they would arrive in Central African Republic, remains uncertain.
The Security Council also added targeted sanctions, in the form of travel bans and asset freezes, to ones that were imposed in December when tension peaked between the mostly Muslim Séléka fighters and the groups of Christian vigilantes, Reuters reports. After Tuesday, a committee can blacklist human rights abusers, violators of the arms embargo and supporters of the sparring groups just to reach the Republic’s natural resources like gold and diamonds.
The country of 4.6 million has been wracked by tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups since tension erupted in early December. A transitional council recently voted Catherine Samba-Panza as the interim president after Michel Djotodia, the Séléka rebel commander who rose to power in a coup last March, resigned amid heavy regional pressure to stop the violence.
At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million others have been displaced from their homes as the fighting continues. Aid groups have warned for more than a week that Muslim civilians are being targeted in retaliatory attacks in the northwest by Christian groups.