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Africa

Hollande arrives in CAR after French soldiers' deaths

© Screen grab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-11

French President François Hollande arrived in the Central African Republic on Tuesday following the deaths of two French soldiers. France is leading a UN-backed military operation in the country aimed at halting inter-religious violence.

Two French soldiers have been killed in the Central African Republic, the French presidency announced on Tuesday, as French and African Union troops lead a UN-backed military operation aimed at halting inter-religious violence in the country.

Nicolas Vokaer, 23, and Antoine Le Quinio, 22, were killed in a short-range firefight near the airport in Bangui, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. Both parachutists were taken for medical treatment but later died of their injuries.

President François Hollande arrived in the conflict-torn nation on Tuesday evening after he attended a memorial service for South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela in Soweto.

Hollande called for swift elections in the country in an interview last week with FRANCE 24.

Their deaths come a day after French troops began disarming militias in the troubled nation.

The former French colony slipped into chaos after Muslim Seleka rebels ousted president François Bozizé in a March coup, leading to outbreaks of inter-religious violence with militias from the country’s Christian majority.

The leader of the now-disbanded Seleka rebel alliance, Michel Djotodia, serves as interim president, the country’s first Muslim leader.

Relative calm

Bangui has seen relative calm since French troops began patrolling its streets and neighbouring towns in the wake of a new UN Security Council resolution passed last week that allows the use of force to protect the lives of civilians.

© Nicolas Vokaer and Antoine Le Quinio

“It’s true that tensions have eased a little, but people still stay at home as much as they can,” said FRANCE 24’s Alexander Turnbull, reporting from the capital Bangui on Monday. “The real difficulty for them at the moment is trying to find food supplies.”

But many terrified residents of the capital still refuse to leave their homes after rival militia groups attacked civilians with knives and machetes last week in an outbreak of violence that left hundreds dead.

“People do feel safer, [but] this doesn’t mean that there are no militias left in Bangui or the countryside,” Turnbull said.

US to boost mission

The United States said on Monday that it will help transport about 850 soldiers from Burundi to the Central African Republic to take part in the African Union peacekeeping force.

Unrest in Central African Republic as rebels disarmed

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel made the decision after speaking by phone on Sunday with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who requested "limited" US military assistance and airlift support, said Defence Department spokesman Carl Woog.

"The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region," the US said in a statement.

The Pentagon offered similar assistance during the French intervention in Mali, providing cargo planes and intelligence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-12-10

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