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U.S. envoy to U.N. visits Central African Republic

Dec. 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM   |   Comments

BANGUI, Central African Republic, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Samantha Power, U.S. envoy to the United Nations, was in Central African Republic, she said, to show how important the situation there is to the United States.

Power, who arrived in Bangui Thursday, said she came to Central African Republic because she wanted to see first-hand the horror sectarian violence has brought to the country, the New York Times reported. She is to meet with government leaders, peacekeepers, aid workers and civilians who survived militias to urge an immediate end to the violence that has alarmed officials around the world.

"To take a plane in here at this stage is very important and very much a sign of the priority the president attaches to events on the ground and, ultimately, stabilization in the Central African Republic," she said while en route to CAR from Washington.

While the United States has no apparent economic or strategic interests in CAR, it does have an interest in preventing another slaughter similar to Rwanda, the Times said, and Power has built her reputation on alerting the world to mass atrocities.

At least 600,000 people have been forced from their homes in the Christian-Muslim conflict in Central African Republic, the United Nations said. While numbers for the country are not firm, about 500 people were killed in the past month in Bangui alone.

"She has been the chief advocate for a stronger U.S. role in dealing with the situation in the Central African Republic, which has led Obama to rapidly scale up the amount of money the Americans are providing," said Peter Bouckaert, a Human Rights Watch researcher whose report on the recent violence in the country was released Thursday. "At the same time, going for a United Nations peacekeeping mission is a very expensive venture, and it is a commitment they're not ready to make at the minute."

So far she has twice called CAR's transitional president, Michel Djotodia, most recently Sunday.

"We wanted to make sure he heard directly from me President Obama's great interest in the events in the Central African Republic," she said.

Djotodia was installed by the Seleka, a group of mostly Muslim rebels, after they overthrew the government.

The United States has contributed $100 million to an African Union-led mission, including providing a two C-17 military cargo planes to transport troops from Burundi, the Times said. France sent 1,600 troops to Central African Republic, with logistical help from Britain. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a peacekeeping force of 6,000 to 9,000 troops under a U.N. command.

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