On June 22nd the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, advised the Security Council to prolong the mandate of the Minurca peacekeeping force for three months, to October 25th, to cover the electoral period in the CAR, and on July 14th the council accepted his proposal. This extension had been widely expected; the tenth and final contingent of Minurca soldiers -- 120 soldiers from Egypt, deployed after Ghana and Botswana pulled out of the mission -- only arrived in Bangui on June 23rd. Minurca now numbers 1,380, with 120 troops each from Mali, Gabon, Senegal, Togo, Chad, Burkina Faso and Egypt; 50 from Canada; 240 from Cote d'Ivoire; and 250 from France.
-- as the UN backs a deeper commitment
It would come as no surprise if Mr Annan sought another extension of Minurca's mandate, in view of the possibility of a further significant delay to the election. From Mr Annan's point of view, the mission will have failed if it pulls out just as the situation is particularly tense in the wake of a tight election result. Indeed, in seeking Security Council approval for the first extension, Mr Annan pointed out that much remained to be done in moving the CAR towards stability: "National reconciliation and the security situation are still fragile . to reach a durable peace, it is necessary to take urgent action in the following areas: a credible restructuring of the defence and security forces, the organisation of free and regular elections and economic and social revival." He also called on the government to pay off salary arrears as soon as possible, the importance of which was highlighted a few weeks later, in August, when Bangui municipal employees staged a strike in support of demands for the payment of arrears. The Security Council backed Mr Annan when in mid-July it called on the government to push through armed forces reform -- which is essential if further mutinies are to be avoided -- as soon as possible. The secretary-general's statement appears to imply that he would like to keep Minurca in place until progress is achieved both on the economic front and with army reform.