France will increase the number of its troops in the Central African Republic in response to the violence plaguing its former colony. The situation in the CAR has dominated talks at an African security summit in Paris.
Crossing the border from Cameroon, the troops have patrolled the Central African Republic capital of Bangui to restore a semblance of calm.
“On Thursday evening, there were 600 troops. Last night there were 1,000 and by tonight there will be 1,600,” France’s President Francois Hollande told a news conference to mark the end of the summit on Saturday. “It’s a number that will remain as long as necessary for this mission.”
“We all agreed on the fundamental principle that it is up to Africa to ensure its own security,” said Holland, adding that France would provide equipment, logistical support and advice in the Central African Republic. Hollande will also attempt to obtain assistance from Britain, Germany and other European Union partners.
“Europe can play its part,” Hollande said. “For Europe to ensure its own defense, Africa must be able to ensure its own. Our interests are linked. Terrorism knows no borders.”
Hollande said the troops, as well as restoring order to the strife-torn country, would seek to disarm the militias. Thousands of residents have gathered at Bangui airport, where both the French army and an African force have bases, in an effort to find refuge from the fighting.
Muslim and Christian militias have been at increasingly bloody odds since the overthrowing of former president Francois Bozize in March. Seleka rebels replaced Bozize with Michel Djotodia, making him the first Muslim president of the largely Christian nation.
Djotodia is accused of failing to keep his predominantly Muslim militia in check, allowing them to prey upon the Christian population. The United Nations has estimated 400,000 citizens have been displaced in the fighting.
‘Urgent need’ for action
The bloodshed between the militias on Thursday, in which many of the victims were clubbed or hacked to death, was met with the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution allowing French and African Union troops to use force when necessary to stabilize the Central African Republic. Included in the resolution was a mandate for 3,600 additional African troops and for France to double its current deployment in the country to 1,200.
“There is an urgent need to avoid further deterioration of the situation,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday from the summit in Paris.
“The chaos and suffering pose a major threat for the international community. I am particularly grateful to all countries contributing to MISCA [the African force in CAR] and highly commend President Francois Hollande for mobilizing troops so rapidly.”
Hollande has also offered to provide training for 20,000 African troops over a five-year period as part of efforts to help the continent establish effective military units.
ph/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)