UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council on Thursday voted unanimously to send 12,000 peacekeepers authorized to do whatever necessary to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, where a vicious sectarian conflict has effectively partitioned the country into Christian and Muslim swaths and left a trail of gruesome killings.
France, which wrote the resolution, has said it will keep its 2,000-member force in the Central African Republic, a former French colony, until the new peacekeeping force can be deployed in full. How long that will take remains unclear, as does the question of how capable the troops will be of protecting civilians without abusing them.
Peacekeepers from neighboring Chad pulled outfrom the Central African Republic this month after some of them were accused of shooting civilians in a busy market in the capital, Bangui. Many of the roughly 5,000 African Union peacekeeping troops in the country now could be incorporated into the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
The resolution calls for 10,000 soldiers and nearly 2,000 police officers. Rights groups that have been pressing the United Nations to take a more assertive role in the crisis welcomed its passage.
“Precious time wasted but #CARcrisis resolution creates strong UN mission to protect civilians, monitor human rights, help rule of law,” wrote Philippe Bolopion, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, on Twitter.
Rare for a United Nations mission, due to start in September, the peacekeepers are additionally authorized to support law and order in the country, at a time when its police and court system have basically collapsed.
They are also supposed to monitor human rights abuses and help the national authorities arrest war criminals. The Central African Republic is a signatory to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, which has already opened an investigation into atrocities in the course of the conflict. “Justice is necessary to the process. Impunity led us to where we are now,” its foreign minister, Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, told reporters after the Security Council vote.