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UN Security Council extends C.Africa arms embargo

By AFP
A UN vehicle patrols in Bangui in January 2020.  By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP/File)
LISTEN JUL 29, 2021
A UN vehicle patrols in Bangui in January 2020. By FLORENT VERGNES (AFP/File)

The United Nations Security Council extended an arms embargo on the Central African Republic for 12 months Thursday as members voiced alarm at the country's "deteriorating" situation.

The 15-member Council approved the embargo and sanctions renewal with 14 votes in support and one abstention, made by China.

The extension -- which aims to prevent armed groups from acquiring weaponry -- is virtually the same as the last embargo but includes an exemption on mortars.

One of the world's poorest countries, the CAR has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.

France's ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, said the African nation was "deteriorating," with "a very worrying amount of violence and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law."

Russian "instructors" have been aiding CAR's poorly-equipped national army since 2018, when Moscow first acknowledged sending personnel to help train its beleaguered forces.

The Russian paramilitaries supplied small arms, gaining exemption from the weapons embargo and are credited with helping strengthening CAR's army.

Since December, the army, backed by the 12,000-strong UN MINUSCA peacekeepers, Rwandan special forces and Russian paramilitaries, has wrested much of the territory from rebel control.

But the conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the first months of the year, while around half the population is facing "high levels of acute food insecurity," according to the UN.

Last month, UN experts accused the Russian instructors of having carried out "indiscriminate killings" and lootings.

Moscow insists the personnel are unarmed and not involved in fighting.

Russia has acknowledged the deployment of around 500 instructors but UN experts estimate there could be up to 2,000.

"We remain deeply troubled by allegations that such atrocities are being committed not only by armed groups but by members of the national armed forces and indeed by private military contractors," British official Alice Jacobs told the Security Council.

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