UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations will soon send 300 Senegalese troops from a UN rapid-reaction force to the Central African Republic to beef up security ahead of elections next month.
The Security Council on Monday approved the two-month redeployment ahead of Pope Francis's visit to the troubled CAR on November 29-30 and the nationwide vote scheduled for December 27.
The Senegalese soldiers are serving in the UN mission in Ivory Coast, but will be sent to CAR in the coming days, said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.
"By providing more peacekeepers... including to assist with security for the pope's visit at the end of November, this will help protect civilians and, with the pope, further encourage dialogue and reconciliation ahead of elections," said British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson, whose country chairs the council this month.
The United Nations is also planning to send a battalion of 750 troops from Egypt and 140 police from Mauritania to reinforce the 12,000-strong MINUSCA force in CAR.
MINUSCA also wants to begin using its first surveillance drones over Bangui to better track potential trouble spots in the capital.
Council members expressed concern about the escalating violence in CAR including clashes at refugee camps in Bambari and Batangafo, north of the capital.
A peacekeeper from Cameroon was killed during clashes last week.
The December 27 vote is shaping up as a major test of the Central African Republic's progress in its political transition after the bloodletting that followed the March 2013 coup.
The Central African Republic descended into bloodshed after the 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize, with Christian anti-balaka militias battling Muslim Seleka rebels.
In October, Bangui was wracked by an upsurge of violence that set back hopes that the country was on its way to a return to order.
A referendum on a proposed new constitution is set for December 13 in what is widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the parliamentary and presidential elections, on December 27. — AFP