UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council called on the Central African Republic's new president on Tuesday to urgently foster reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in order to reunify the country which has been plagued by sectarian violence.
In a resolution adopted unanimously, the council demanded that all militias and armed groups lay down their arms and halt all other destabilizing activities.
The council expressed support for President Faustin Archange Touadera, who was inaugurated on March 30, and urged his government to work to address local grievances and the marginalization of groups.
"The Central African Republic is at a turning point in its history," CAR's U.N. Ambassador Ambroisine Kpongo told the Security Council after the vote. "We must succeed in the immense task that is before us."
Civilians continue to have their security threatened "by the numerous armed criminal groups," Kpongo said, stressing that the U.N. mission must be "proactive" in protecting civilians.
Central African Republic has been rocked by unrest since March 2013 when Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president. That ushered in a brutal reign in which Muslims committed atrocities. When the rebel leader left power the following year, a backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians erupted, leaving many dead.
While the country has experienced relative peace since the landmark visit of Pope Francis last November, that may be because nearly all the country's Muslims have fled to the northern half or across the borders to Chad and Cameroon. Despite peaceful elections earlier this year, there are fears the country is again teetering on the edge.
The resolution adopted by the Security Council extends the U.N. peacekeeping mission in CAR until Nov. 15, 2017 at its current troop strength of around 13,000 peacekeepers.
The immediate priority in its new mandate is for peacekeepers to protect civilians, including by gathering and effectively using "reliable and actionable information on threats."