EU-Africa leaders discuss CAR crisis at summit

Children have been victims of horrendous attacks

African and EU leaders held crisis talks on the spiralling sectarian unrest in the Central African Republic (CAR), at a two-day summit in Brussels.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who is also attending, promised to do "everything possible" to improve the international response to the crisis.

The European Union (EU) has already announced plans to send 1,000 troops to the country.

The UN earlier warned that 19,000 Muslims "face slaughter" in CAR.

Start Quote

There's nothing, there's no coherent army, no police, no justice system”

End Quote Navi Pillay UN human rights chief

Trade and immigration will also be high on the agenda at the summit, which ends on Thursday.

The meeting is being attended by 30 heads of state and government - 15 each from Africa and Europe.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is boycotting the summit after the EU refused to temporarily lift a visa ban on his wife, Grace.

Mr Mugabe received support from South African President Jacob Zuma, who chose to boycott the summit in a show of solidarity for his Zimbabwean counterpart.

"I think that time must pass wherein we are looked [upon] as subjects," Mr Zuma said. "We are told who must come, who must not come. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness."

Genocide warning

Mr Ban warned that the situation in CAR could spiral into a genocide, at Wednesday's crisis meeting with EU and African leaders.

He said the people were facing "grave and deplorable atrocities", and he promised to do everything possible to improve the international response to the conflict.

African Union troops in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic - 25 March 2014 The EU is sending 1,000 troops to join the 6,000 African Union soldiers already in CAR

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country and France were "seeking to be a motor" for Africa's development, including its security.

The EU force was due to be deployed to CAR last month, but was delayed because of insufficient troop and aircraft commitments from the group's 28 member-states.

The EU said its troops would operate in the capital, Bangui, which is worst-affected by the conflict.

Some 8,000 African Union (AU) and French forces are battling to restore stability in CAR after more than a year of conflict, following the seizure of power by mainly Muslim rebels.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR said it was trying to evacuate some 19,000 Muslims from areas near Bangui.

Nearly 16,000 people had fled their homes in Bangui in the past 10 days amid an upsurge of violence, it added.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters during celebrations to mark his 90th birthday President Mugabe has refused to attend the summit

After rebel leader Michel Djotodia, who had become president, was forced to step down in January, vigilante groups began targeting Muslims across the Christian-majority country.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said during a recent visit to CAR that she had been "shocked" by the complete lack of any structures to support law and order in the country.

"There's no coherent army, no police, no justice system, hardly any proper detention facilities," she said. "So if you don't have police and judges, you don't have rule of law".

'Partnership of equals'

Apart from the CAR, the two blocs are due to discuss trade and investment.

EU council president Herman Van Rompuy said he hoped the summit would mark a new stage in Europe's relationship with Africa.

It was time for a "shift from development cooperation to a partnership of equals with trade and investment playing a key role", he added.

The EU has traditionally been Africa's biggest trading partner and is by far its largest donor.

However, its dominance is increasingly being challenged by China, now a major investor in Africa.

"The need for investment in Africa is so huge that the more investment coming, the better," EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said.

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