UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force for Central African Republic, which has been torn by mounting violence between Christians and Muslims.
The 10,000 U.N. troops and 1,800 police will take over from 5,000 African Union soldiers — but not until Sept. 15.
A separate 2,000-strong French force in the Central African Republic was authorized to use "all necessary means" to support the new U.N. force.
Central African Republic has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when mostly Muslim rebels seized power and launched a brutal regime. Christian militiamen attacked rebel strongholds in early December. As the rebel government crumbled in January, the Christian militiamen stepped up the violence, forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee.
France, the country's former colonial power, took the lead in mobilizing international support to address the crisis but its ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the security situation remains volatile.
"African Union troops supported by the French troops are doing tremendous work to protect the civilian population but it's not yet enough," Araud said after the vote. "The resolution we have just adopted is a key turning point."
Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, Central African Republic's foreign minister, who urged the council last month to send U.N. peacekeepers, thanked members for adopting the resolution, saying it "lays the foundation for a solution and a way out of the crisis."
The resolution expresses serious concern at multiple violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by both former Seleka elements and anti-Balaka militia including killings, torture and sexual violence against women and children.
It "demands that all militias and armed groups put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately and release children from their ranks."
The Security Council wanted a strong mandate and the resolution authorizes the new U.N. force to protect civilians and support the disarmament of combatants and the restoration of peace and law and order. It also authorizes the mission to help investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law by armed groups and arrest alleged perpetrators.