Hundreds of people took to the streets of Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on Tuesday to protest against France’s military intervention amid a surge in sectarian violence.
Supporters of the largely Muslim Seleka rebels gathered to protest against French troops conducting a disarmament operation, chanting:“No to colonisation! No to the Sangaris operation!”
“We don’t want religious conflict in our country” said one protester, while another’s placard read “Sangaris/CAR/Turquoise/Rwanda".
Tuesday's protest follows a major demonstration on Sunday, where thousands of people took to the streets in the most significant show of hostility towards France since it deployed troops on December 5.
French and African forces deployed to Central African Republic earlier this month to try to bring order to a nation described by some as being on the verge of genocide.
Initially, the foreign forces were cheered by the population, hundreds of whom lined the streets to welcome arriving brigades.
But within weeks, the mood has changed and the international forces are now being seen as having taken sides in the conflict.
French troops have come under attack from the Seleka rebels, the Muslim fighters who overthrew the country's Christian president in March, because the French are seen as
being against the Muslim interim president, Michel Djotodia.
Similarly, the African peacekeepers have come under attack from Christian fighters. They see the Chadian contingent, which is part of the African Union-led force, as allied with the country's Muslims.
In Paris, French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron told The Associated Press, that French forces had come under attack in recent days.
"We are seeing a very clear rise in tension,'' he said. "We are acting since we did in the beginning - in total impartiality.''
The seizure of power by Seleka rebels in March unleashed a wave of looting, rapes and massacres by the mainly-Muslim fighters, sparking reprisals by Christian fighters known as anti-balaka.
More than 700,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, leading some to fear atrocities on the scale of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-24