U.S. Tries To Limit Violence In Central African Republic

The Obama administration has devoted considerable resources to the Central African Republic. Renee Montagne talks to Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., about U.S. efforts to end the crisis there.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Obama administration has devoted considerable money and aid to the Central African Republic. One person coordinating that effort is Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She made her name as a journalist several years ago with a book, "A Problem from Hell," which was an examination of genocide and how powerful nations often fail to prevent it.

I spoke to her late last week, not long after she returned from a trip to African, on a day when a grisly photo was making news. It showed the body of a man in Bangui accused of being a Muslim militia member slashed and kicked to death by uniformed soldiers as bystanders cheered.

I asked Ambassador Power what the U.S. is doing to stop that kind of atrocity in the Central African Republic.

AMBASSADOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well, maybe let me start just by saying that the situation there remains heartbreaking and very perilous as we speak. Having said that, there are more than 4,000 African troops on the ground alongside 1,600 French troops and the European Union has just decided to send 500 or 600 troops as well. United States has provided up to $100 million in lift and training and equipping of African forces to go into the Central African Republic. We have set up a commission of inquiry, we - the United Nations - which is really important because what's happened now is that a cycle of violence had been unleashed and there is a longing for vengeance among those who have seen their family members harmed or their homes destroyed. An absence some show of accountability, the desire for them to take justice into their own hands is more and more pronounced. So, I think with the elements of increased security and stability on the ground, but honestly speaking, we're nowhere near where we need to be if these demon almost, that had been unleashed are to be neutralized.

MONTAGNE: Could I just, though, I mean after the intervention, the coup leader was persuaded to step down. I mean that was a good thing. But then what happened was when troops came in - French troops in particular - and disarmed the Muslim militias - they were suddenly at the mercy of vengeful Christians. So this cycle of violence that you refer to, could have been stopped before it happened? Could that have been foreseen?

POWER: Well, I think that the religiously motivated killings and mob attacks that are underway need to be stopped. And the way that they can be stopped is if the state in the Central African Republic - which was always a very weak state, but which totally vanished almost overnight last year. If that state can be reconstituted, if the police, who have just started we assembling in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, if those police will move out and join international forces in patrolling the streets and trying to offer protection, if the militia - who are still a minority - each of them need to be disarmed as the state to constitutes itself. But again, no one is minimizing the scale of this challenge when all state institutions, the police, the army, basic social services, basically anybody who used to work for the state stops showing up, when there is no means of paying salaries, and when mob violence takes hold, it is very challenging to put it back in a box. And so I think the trend lines are more positive, but every day we see atrocities that shock the conscience.

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MONTAGNE: Ambassador Samantha Power spoke to of late last week from her office at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

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MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News .

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