France said its troops will begin to disarm militias in the Central African Republic on Monday, while acknowledging that its reinforced presence in the capital of Bangui and nearby towns was creating tensions with former Seleka rebels on the ground.
French troops are set to start disarming militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) following a wave of sectarian violence in the capital of Bangui that has left around 400 people dead.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French soldiers would begin disarming rebels on Monday morning. “The period of impunity is over,” he said on French RTL radio on Sunday evening.
Calm has been largely restored to Bangui since French troops began patrolling its streets and neighbouring towns in the wake of a new UN Security Council-backed mission that allows the use of force to protect the lives of civilians.
Many terrified residents of the capital still refused to leave their homes after rival militia groups attacked civilians with knives and machetes last week.
“People do feel safer. This doesn’t mean that there are no militias left in Bangui or the countryside,” said FRANCE 24’s Alexander Turnbull in Bangui.
“It’s true that tensions have eased a little but people still stay at home as much as they can. The real difficulty for them at the moment is trying to find food supplies," he said.
French army spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron said the French military mission had reached its full strength of 1,600 by Sunday.
Following the deadly violence, the African Union plans to boost the regional MISCA force on the ground to 6,000 troops from a planned 3,600.
Jaron also noted tension between the French soldiers and former Seleka rebels who have largely been in control of Bangui since a March coup.
“I think they have understood they will have to be re-grouped, disarmed, that the French force is imposing itself in the capital at their expense, which is creating tension," Jaron noted.
A French patrol came under fire near the airport on Sunday but a military source said no one was injured.
The Seleka rebels mostly come from CAR’s Muslim minority. While the transitional president, Michel Djotodia, officially disbanded the Seleka alliance, in reality, the former rebel leader lost control of rebel fighters.
Meanwhile, Christian vigilante groups known as the “anti-balaka” sprang up to defend their communities but some also have committed revenge attacks on Muslim communities.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-09