, ADDIS ABABA, Feb 1 – African countries met Saturday to raise cash for the peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn Central African Republic amid warnings the violence there could tear the country apart and destabilise the region.
The pledging conference comes after African leaders called for urgent solutions to the crisis in Central Africa, a landlocked, resource-rich but impoverished nation where weeks of sectarian violence have killed thousands.
“Clearly the collapse of law and order is a threat to the very existence of the Central African state, it has the potential to seriously impact on regional security and stability,” said Smail Chergui, the top African Union peace and the security official, told the conference.
“The security situation is of utmost concern, with continued attacks against civilians that in turn heighten religious and inter-communal tensions,” he said.
The Central African Republic descended into chaos 10 months ago after rebels overthrew the government, sparking violence between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority that has uprooted a million people out of a population of 4.6 million.
Violence has escalated in recent days, with 30 dead in the capital amid reports that violence is spreading beyond the capital Bangui.
There are currently 5,500 troops in the African Union peacekeeping mission MISCA in CAR, supporting a 1,600-strong French force battling to restore peace in the conflict-wracked country.
The European Union has committed 500 troops, in addition to 200 million euro ($150 million) in support for security and elections which are set to take in the next year.
The newly-elected president of CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza, has called for additional troops to be deployed in the country in order to halt the violence.
The violence has created a massive humanitarian crisis, and the UN World Food Programme said in Geneva it urgently needed $95 million to provide food assistance to the population.