BANGUI, C.A.R. - A member of a U.S. congressional delegation on Thursday called for urgent aid to Central African Republic during a visit to the impoverished country, where deadly sectarian violence is surging again.
Hundreds of people have been killed this year and more than 600,000 have been displaced.
Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a Democrat who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Associated Press that the international community "has to think about the long-term implications of abandoning our efforts to stabilize this country."
Cicilline criticized the recent withdrawal of U.S. special operations troops and said it created a "void" in the country's southeast. The U.S. military this year ended operations against the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in the region. The LRA has continued attacks against civilians since then.
An estimated 60 percent of Central African Republic is controlled by armed groups, according to the aid group Oxfam.
Cicilline praised the U.N. peacekeeping mission for preventing "significant armed conflict," though the mission has acknowledged it doesn't have enough personnel to sufficiently protect civilians throughout the country.
The U.N. Foundation funded the delegation's visit. Peter Yeo, the foundation's vice president of public policy and advocacy, said he was "very concerned" about President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts for U.N. peacekeeping but noted that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had not taken a "slash-and-burn approach toward peacekeeping funding."
Requests for additional peacekeeping support could be discussed when the mission's mandate is up for renewal by the U.N. Security Council in November.