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France pushes for easing of UN arms embargo against CAR

An armed militiaman, stands guard at the entrance of the headquarters of the Muslim "self-defence force" group of the PK5 majority Muslim district of Bangui, 15 November 2017.
An armed militiaman, stands guard at the entrance of the headquarters of the Muslim "self-defence force" group of the PK5 majority Muslim district of Bangui, 15 November 2017. Photo: Florent Vergnes/AFP

The UN Security Council has paved the way for possibly easing the arms embargo on the Central African Republic (CAR). A French-drafted resolution would enable the supply of weapons to government forces fighting militia groups who control large swathes of the country.

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The council adopted the draft of the resolution calling for a review of the arms embargo by September if a number of benchmarks are met by the Central African government.

The embargo was imposed in 2013 when the country descended into civil war following the ousting of President Francois Bozize by the Seleka rebel group.

Authorities in Bangui have frequently called for the lifting of the restrictions, arguing that the supply of arms is crucial for its security forces.

A UN panel of experts has noted that armed groups continue to receive military equipment, much of it from Sudan, while the country’s security forces remain ill-equipped, according to the What’s In Blue website, which monitors the UN Security Council.

The council said it would extend the embargo until January next year, however it laid out a series of benchmarks that could lead to a partial lifting.

Benchmarks will be agreed upon by April and include the creation of a strategy for reintegrating former members of armed groups and other measures such as the management and storage of weapons and ammunition, What’s In Blue reported.

The resolution was described as displaying a “real openness” to a partial lifting of the arms embargo, according to the French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, cited by the AFP news agency.

Calls by the CAR government to lift the embargo were “heard loud and clear”, Delattre said, calling the resolution a “roadmap that in a few months’ time could lead to a slight lifting of the arms embargo”.

Exemptions for shipments of weapons from France, Russia, China, the US and Belgium have already been granted by the UN sanctions committee.

Violence in the CAR has left thousands of people dead and the unrest has led to a quarter of the country’s population fleeing their homes.

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