UNITED NATIONS— U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has arrived in Bangui, in the Central African Republic, where she is to meet with government officials and civil society leaders about the fighting that has created a large and growing humanitarian crisis.
Ambassador Power and a small delegation arrived in the capital, Bangui, for a one-day unannounced visit Thursday.
Power told reporters in a conference call during a stop in Abuja, Nigeria, that disarming of groups fomenting violence in the country is critical to its stabilization.
“The violence has been vicious, it has been directed almost entirely at civilians, and it has been increasingly sectarian," she said. "And only with this disarmament do we think that that violence can come to an end.”
In March, the country descended into turmoil after mostly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, overthrew President Francois Bozizé. Months of looting and killing have led to inter-communal fighting, as Bozizé allies and Christian militias, known as anti-balaka, engage in tit-for-tat attacks on the Seleka.
This month, the U.N. Security Council authorized the deployment of 6,000 African and 1,600 French troops to help quell the violence. Ambassador Power’s visit coincides with the official deployment of the African force, which is known as MISCA. The United States has provided $100 million to help support and equip the mission.
If the French and Africans cannot stabilize the situation, the U.N. could deploy a peacekeeping force next year.
Ambassador Power won a Pulitzer Prize for her book about genocide, A Problem from Hell, and is a strong voice in the Obama administration for protecting human rights. She expressed concern for the more than 200,000 refugees and half-million internally displaced civilians in the C.A.R. She noted that the United States has given the country more than $23 million this year for humanitarian relief, and that more aid will follow in 2014.
Power said the world has been witness to great atrocities before, and has a responsibility to prevent the situation in central Africa from deteriorating further.
“Direct comparisons with other past crises are inevitably flawed, but it is worth noting that Somalia taught us what can happen in a failed state, and Rwanda showed us what can occur in a deeply divided one. The people in Central African Republic are in profound danger, and we all have a responsibility which we must meet to help them move away from the abyss,” said Power.
A senior administration official traveling with the ambassador said the Obama administration is deeply concerned about the sectarian nature of the violence. The official added that human rights violators must be held accountable.
The U.S. administration hopes the security situation will stabilize over the next several weeks so that urgently needed relief can reach civilians in isolated, affected areas of the C.A.R., and further atrocities can be prevented. The official said Washington wants to see security restored and borders managed, preventing extremists from trying to take advantage of the political chaos.