CAR intervention will be 'easier than Mali', says France
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France said Tuesday it will send at least 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic to bolster regional peace-keeping forces. France’s UN ambassador told FRANCE 24 the operation would "probably be easier” than the military intervention in Mali.
France said on Tuesday it would increase its force in Central African Republic (CAR) to at least 1,000 soldiers once a UN resolution is passed next week to try to prevent sectarian violence from destabilising the entire region.
The landlocked nation of 4.6 million people at the heart of Africa has descended into chaos since the Séléka coalition of rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President François Bozizé in March.
Séléka leader Michel Djotodia, installed as an interim president, has failed to control his mostly Muslim fighters, who have preyed upon the mainly Christian population, unleashing a wave of tit-for-tat killings.
“This is a real humanitarian concern,” France’s ambassador to the UN Gérard Araud told FRANCE 24 on Tuesday. “The CAR is collapsing and it could lead to mass atrocities, with each community trying to slaughter the other. What you have right now in the CAR, on both sides, are thugs who are raping and plundering. We need to restore law and order.”
“But here we are up against armed thugs, not an organised opposition,” he added. “It will probably be easier than military intervention in Mali was.”
Araud said that French troops in CAR would restore law and order until the 3,600-strong MISCA force was fully operational. The African Union is due to take control next month of a 2,500-strong contingent already deployed by the Economic Community of Central African States.
France, which presides over the 15-member UN Security Council in December, hopes a resolution for international intervention in its mineral-rich former colony can be adopted next week.
France now has 400 troops in the riverside capital Bangui, securing the international airport and French interests. Central African Republic Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye told Reuters on Monday after a meeting with Fabius in Paris that France aimed to boost its force by 800 soldiers.
Asked about the figure of 800 additional troops, Fabius said the number “makes sense”.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later told Europe 1 radio that France would support a planned African-led force with “around 1,000” troops. He did not specify whether that was the size of the reinforcement or the total number.
In Bangui, Djotodia welcomed France’s determination to send troops, saying he had personally written to French President François Hollande to request military support.
“They have to come to help us. It is important,” Djotodia told Reuters after a meeting with civil society groups.
The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people have been displaced and 68,000 have fled to neighbouring countries due to the spiralling violence.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)