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EU Mobilizes Troops for 'Crisis of Epic Proportions'

More troops to head to Central African Republic, where ongoing violence has pushed population to the brink

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A family outside their UNHCR tent at the international airport in Bangui. (Photo: UNHCR)Up to 1000 military troops will head to the crisis-stricken Central African Republic, European Union foreign ministers decided Monday.

The troops will join French and African troops already on the ground.

Which EU member states will be sending troops as part of that mission is not certain as of yet, though Ireland, Britain, Germany and Italy have already said they will not be contributing troops.

In a statement to the special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that CAR was experiencing "a crisis of epic proportions which requires immediate and concerted action."

The Guardian offers this background:

The latest eruption began in March when the unpopular president, François Bozizé, fled by helicopter with five suitcases after being overthrown by a loose coalition of rebels, bandits and guns for hire known as the Seleka, meaning "alliance" in the local language. One of its leaders, Michel Djotodia, declared himself president — the first Muslim to rule this majority Christian nation of 4.6 million people. What Médecins sans Frontières termed "a crisis on top of a crisis" for the population accelerated considerably in September when Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka. Many of the rebels refused to disarm and leave the militias as ordered but veered further out of control, killing, looting and burning villages. They also systematically stripped administrative offices down to the light fittings and destroyed public records.

In December alone, roughly 1,000 people were killed, and horrific violence is ongoing, with women and children among the victims.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been operating a clinic in the capital of Bangui, but continued insecurty has threatened the assistance it provides.

"People are coming in with machete wounds to the head, hands and arms – injuries sustained as they tried to defend themselves. We've also seen people who have been stabbed, sometimes multiple times, in the abdomen, and people who have been either tortured or brutally beaten. We have even had a case of impalement. For the most part, these are young men," stated Laurent Sury, MSF's emergency coordinator in Bangui.

Nearly 1 million people have been uprooted, and those who have sought shelter in overcrowded refugee camps must contend with unsanitary and potentially dangerous conditions, and last week the UN warned of a potential genocide.

Also on Monday, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that it was running out of food to distribute to the displaced as continued fighting has blocked supply routes.

Amidst the ongoing chaos, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was elected interim president.

The election of Chad-born Samba-Panza comes 10 days after Michel Djotodia, who seized power in March, stepped down.

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