France ‘will never abandon Central African Republic’, says French PM
Date created : Latest update :
France will stand by its former African colony, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview with FRANCE 24 and RFI on Sunday, as French troops formally ended a three-year mission to pacify the conflict-ridden country.
The end to France’s Operation Sangaris comes as a fresh wave of bloodshed shook the troubled Central African Republic (CAR), spearheaded by rival Muslim and Christian militia groups.
Valls expressed his “grave concern” at the deadly clashes that killed 25 people last week, saying “the United Nations, the European Union and France must work together to protect the peace”.
While the French prime minister said it was not France’s role to leave troops in CAR “eternally”, he stressed that “leaving the country alone is out of the question”.
“We will never abandon this country,” Valls added, echoing a similar statement by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault earlier this week.
French troops were urgently deployed to CAR following a wave of bloodshed in December 2013. While they put an end to mass killings, they were unable to disarm the country's rival militias.
The French operation has not been entirely smooth, with its troops coming under intense pressure since July 2014 over allegations of child rape.
Despite the troubling claims, many Central Africans are worried about the end of Operation Sangaris, amid signs of a return to sectarian bloodshed.
The presence of a much larger UN peacekeeping force, known as MINUSCA, has failed to allay fears of more violence.
Valls dedicated much of Sunday’s wide-ranging interview to African issues, emphasizing France’s close ties to the continent.
“France and Europe must build an alliance with Africa for the 21st century,” he said, warning that many of the challenges facing Europe and the wider world, including climate change, migration and terrorism, had to be dealt with in Africa.
“If we don’t want to be confronted by an unsustainable wave of migrants, then we must help Africa build its future,” Valls said, adding that France would increase its annual development aid to the continent from €4 billion to €6 billion over the next three years.