Central African Republic declares state of emergency to combat rebels

A woman who fled the violent rebellion in Central African Republic (CAR) sits with her family as they wait for their identification process in the border town of Garoua Boulai, Cameroon January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Joel Kouam/File Photo

BANGUI/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Central African Republic declared a state of emergency on Thursday to help it crack down on armed groups, as the United Nations’ envoy to CAR called for the deployment of many more peacekeepers in response to a recent surge in attacks.

The CAR army, backed by U.N., Russian and Rwandan troops, has been battling rebels that are seeking to overturn a Dec. 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared the winner.

The state of emergency, which will last 15 days, lets the authorities fast-track arrests by allowing the military to detain suspects without going through a prosecutor, government spokesman Albert Yaloke said in a statement.

The escalation comes as U.N. envoy Mankeur Ndiaye asked the U.N. Security Council for a substantial increase in the number of peacekeepers to give the mission greater mobility on the ground.

The country “is at serious risk of a security and peacebuilding setback,” Ndiaye said in an address to the council earlier on Thursday.

Seven peacekeepers have been killed since the rebels launched their offensive last month. The fighting has forced nearly 60,000 people to flee the country, compounding an already dire refugee crisis.

Ndiaye said large numbers of CAR troops had deserted due to insufficient training and resources.

Reporting by Antoine Rolland in Bangui and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Paul Simao and Matthew Lewis