The United Nations proposed on Monday a nearly 12,000-member peacekeeping force for the strife-torn Central African Republic that would have a “robust mandate” and initially focus on protecting civilians.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the recommendation in a report to the 15-nation Security Council. If approved, the operation would not begin within the next six months. “It is envisaged that the strength of the peacekeeping operation would comprise up to 10,000 troops and 1,820 police personnel,” he wrote in the report.
Ban’s report comes after his previous warning of being gravely concerned that violence in the landlocked, mineral-rich nation would spiral into genocide. At least 2,000 people have been killed since December and about one-quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people have been uprooted from their homes.
Two thousand French troops are already on the ground but are struggling to control the fighting the ramped up in early December, when tit-for-tat attacks between Muslims and Christians escalated into two days of carnage that left hundreds dead in the capital, Bangui.
(MORE: The Muslims of the Central African Republic Face a Deadly Purge)
The mostly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka, which swept into power last March, has retreated. The predominantly Christian fighter militias called anti-balaka (or anti-machete in the local Sango language) continue to stage a vicious campaign of retaliation against Muslims for Séléka’s nine months of looting, rape and murder.
For months, aid groups in Bangui and the country’s northwest region, where the anti-balaka burned whole villages and publicly executed civilians—giving way to a mass exodus of Muslims out of the country—have warned there is an insufficient number of troops to combat the violence.
The new force would rope in many, if not all, of the 6,000 African Union peacekeepers already on the ground and join the other 1,000 soldiers being deployed by the European Union.
Newly elected interim President Catherine Samba-Panza recently declared a war on the anti-balaka, but so far she has failed to stop the violence that has wracked the country.