France Calls on U.N., AU to Act on Central African Crisis


French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday called on the United Nations and African Union to "take charge of the situation" in the violence-wracked Central African Republic.

The former French colony has been beset by reports of widespread rape, recruitment of child soldiers, weapons proliferation, huge population displacement and severe malnutrition since a coup in March.

"I call on the African Union and the (U.N.) Security Council to take charge of this situation," Hollande said in a televised speech.

An African peacekeeping force has begun deploying in Bangui, but no peacekeepers in the force that will eventually number 2,500 soldiers and 1,000 police officers are stationed outside of the capital.

Speaking at the launch of an annual gathering of ambassadors from around the world, Hollande said it was "more than time to act."

The impoverished African country has been mired in a climate of insecurity since the presidency of Francois Bozize was toppled on March 24 by the Seleka rebel coalition.

Former rebel leader Michel Djotodia was sworn in as the new president earlier this month, tasked with restoring security and steering the nation through a transition period leading to fresh elections within 18 months.

But former rebel fighters are still accused of assaulting and terrorizing civilians.

Hollande said Central Africa was going down the road of Somalia, with 60,000 children at risk of dying of malnutrition, and 1.5 million people displaced out of a population of just over 5 million.

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