The United Nations on Thursday approved deployment of combined African and French troops in the violence-ridden Central African Republic to protect civilians, months after a coup plunged the country into chaos.
Central African Republic Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye was clearly pleased with the move. He appealed to France and African nations to take immediate action to stem worsening sectarian violence.
The UN decision comes as renewed fighting in the capital Bangui has left over 100 people dead. The peacekeeping force is tasked with protecting civilians and restoring humanitarian access to embattled civilians.
French defence chief Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio France Internationale today that troops have arrived and begun moving into the capital.
The landlocked nation of 4.6 million people was plunged into chaos when the mostly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled former president Francois Bozize, unleashing a wave of sectarian violence, which interim President Michel Djotodia, who leads the Seleka, has been powerless to stop.
Former rebels now controlling Bangui drove through the capital on Thursday after the heaviest clashes there in months.
A movement allied to former president Bozize has claimed responsibility for several attacks around the capital. The group is made up mostly of former rebels, and has been blamed for a surge in murders, rapes, robberies and auto thefts. Thursday's shooting left many Bangui residents in fear.
The UN Security Council has approved a resolution that authorises an arms embargo on the CAR and deploys an African Union-led stabilisation force of about 3,600 troops. Soon after, French President Francois Hollande announced that his country will act without delay to double its commitment of troops to the African nation.
"Given the urgency, I have decided to act immediately; in other words: this evening, in coordination with the Africans and with the support of our European partners. Six-hundred soldiers are already on site; this number will be doubled in the next few days or even the next few hours. France doesn't have any other goal than to save human life,'' said Hollande.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said reports of brutality against civilians in the CAR were ''deeply disturbing''.
"The situation is extremely serious and worrying,'' Prime Minister Tiangaye told Reuters in an interview.
''There are serious violations of human rights: massacres, rapes and pillaging on a huge scale. This must prick the world's conscience and bring the whole international community to act."
He spoke moments before the UN Security Council unanimously authorised French and a regional African peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA, to use force to protect civilians.