UN chief Ban Ki-moon has visited refugees housed at a mosque in strife-torn Bangui in the Central African Republic. He also urged UN members to back his call for a peacekeeping force to end inter-religious violence.
Ban briefly visited the capital of majority-Christian Central African Republic on Saturday and urged its leaders and the world community to prevent a new genocide on the continent, 20 years after Rwanda.
"It is your responsibility as leaders to ensure that there are no such anniversaries in this country," said Ban, before departing for Rwanda to commemorate the anniversary of that country's genocide.
Ban told members of a transitional council and Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza that the world community was “at risk of not doing enough for the people of the CAR today.”
He reiterated his call to an EU-African summit earlier this week that the world community provide funds and troops for a new 12,000-strong UN force.
It would take over from some 2,000 French and 6,000 African Union soldiers already deployed in the vast Central African Republic.
"Atrocity crimes are being committed in this country," he said. "Ethno-religious cleansing is a reality. Most members of the Muslim minority have fled."
"Some say this is a forgotten crisis. I am here to help make sure the world does not forget," Ban added.
Earlier this week, the UN refugee agency in Geneva said some 19,000 Muslims risked being killed by Christian vigilante groups unless they are evacuated from Bangui and other areas of the former French colony.
The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since late 2012 when Muslim Seleka fighters rose up and later overthrew then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March 2013.
The transitional council is tasked with preparing the Central African Republic for elections by February 2015
Ban visits Muslim displaced
A UN spokesman said Ban had on Saturday visited 1,500 Muslims housed at the Bangui mosque and told the families that they had not been forgotten.
Ban also told displaced residents still living at Bangui's French-protected airport that he had come to “show my solidarity and that of the international community.”
"The people of CAR should not have to run and die while the world decides whether to keep its promise. You have waited long enough," Ban added.
The UN Security Council is due to vote on Ban's proposal for a UN peacekeeping force later in April.
Some UN member nations have questioned the high cost of such a mission, given UN shortfalls in raising funds for existing operations.
Existing deployments 'struggling'
Amnesty International has said that the French and African peacekeepers - deployed first in Bangui and then into the west of the vast country - have struggled to prevent conflict.
Chad began withdrawing its 850 troops on Friday amid a dispute over clashes last weekend that left more than 30 civilians dead.
On Tuesday, the European Union launched a mission that is to encompass 1,000 troops to help secure Bangui and its airport for the French and African peacekeepers.
The deployment, which had been due in late March, was delayed because of insufficient troops and aircraft commitments from the bloc's 28 member states.
ipj/tj (dpa, AFP, AP)