UN chief to visit C. Africa amid tense security situation

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Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), arrives for a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File photo

BANGUI, Central African Republic, Oct 22 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is expected to arrive in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, as violence between Muslim and Christian militias has intensified in the past few months.

“This is a gesture of solidarity with the peacekeepers working in one of the most dangerous environments,” Guterres said in an interview with AFP and Radio France Internationale (RFI).

His trip to one of the world’s poorest countries will be his first as part of a peacekeeping mission since taking office on January 1 — but he regularly visited the country as former head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The secretary general’s visit comes at a time when the United Nations faces a precarious financial situation, as the United States pushes for cost-cutting measures in peacekeeping.

The international body has maintained some 12,500 troops and police on the ground in the Central African Republic since September 2014 to help protect civilians and support the government of Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was elected last year.

Its mandate expires on November 15, 2017 but is expected to be renewed. For Guterres — whose visit coincides with “United Nations Day” marking the entry into force of the UN charter — “the level of suffering of the people but also the trauma suffered by aid workers and peacekeepers are deserving of our solidarity and heightened attention”.

(Copyright National News Agency / AFP, 2017)

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