The United Nations brought in 250 additional peacekeepers from Côte d’Ivoire over and above those already stationed in the Central African Republic (CAR) to help the authorities provide security for Pope Francis’s two-day visit to Bangui, the war-ravaged country’s capital.
As well as bringing in the special unit, which will remain for another eight weeks, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (INUSCA) also helped build the pope-mobile that Francis used during his visit, which ended today.
In a statement, MINUSCA said it was pleased to see that the Pope delivered messages of peace and reconciliation to members of the Christian and Muslim communities including victims of violence in a country that has been torn apart by more than two years of fighting between the mainly Muslim Séléka group and the mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement.
The Pope ended his trip this morning with a visit to the mosque in a Muslim enclave known PK5, where he called for peace between Christians and Muslims, after which crowds followed him to the Bangui Stadium where he officiated a mass.
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on the warring groups to use the visit to rebuild national reconciliation after renewed violence since September triggered an 18 per cent increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs) to 447,500.
Hundreds of thousands more are estimated to have fled abroad in the fighting, which has killed thousands since it first erupted in early 2013.
MINUSCA, set up in April 2014 to help restore stability peace after a breakdown of governmental authority, currently maintains nearly 11,000 uniformed personnel in the country.
Also today MINUSCA announced that its Force Commander, Major General Martin Chuma Tumenta of Cameroon, passed away. He had been on medical leave for the past month back home.