UNITED NATIONS, United States — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged all sides in the Central African Republic's unrest "to put an immediate end" to fighting and advance the political transition.
As African-led peacekeeping forces (MISCA) transferred authority to the United Nations mission (MINUSCA), Ban urged "all Central African stakeholders to sustain their commitment to an inclusive political process to ensure the successful completion of the country's transition."
Sunday's "transfer of authority marks the successful completion of MISCA's mandate and the beginning of MINUSCA's military and police action in the Central African Republic," Ban said in the statement.
He expressed "his great appreciation to MISCA, which has saved and protected many lives, alongside the French Sangaris forces and the European Union Force" – also present in CAR.
The UN chief also praised "the exemplary collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union." Currently, the UN said its peacekeeping mission in CAR includes 6,500 soldiers, 1,000 police officers and a civilian component.
The mission "will prioritise the protection of civilians, as well as support to the political process and state-building efforts," the statement said.
The UN force, created under Security Council authorisation in April, has a mandate for up to 12,000 soldiers and police, and is due to operate through April 30, 2015.
The peacekeepers are charged with re-establishing order and security in a country plunged into chaos and violence between militias since the overthrow of president Francois Bozize in March 2013.
A transitional president, Catherine Samba Panza, took office in January, and she has overseen the signing of a ceasefire pact between the mainly Muslim Seleka forces and the largely Christian "anti-balaka" militias that emerged to wreak vengeance against Muslims for atrocities by ex-rebels. —AFP