Hollande urges French troops to ensure unity of CAR
Friday, February 28, 2014
By Mirna Gamal
BANGUI – French President Francois Hollande called on French troops stationed in Bangui to ensure the territorial unity of the troubled Central African Republic (CAR).
"Your mission in CAR has security and humanitarian components," Hollande, who arrived in the country for a short visit on Friday, told troops.
"France`s aim is to fight the enemies of peace and reduce crime rates," he added.
Hollande went on to thank French troops for their efforts in "saving millions of lives" in CAR, calling on the international community to step up humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country.
He also announced plans to raise France`s troop-strength in CAR – currently estimated at 1600 – to 9000 by the end of March.
Hollande said that the reinforcements were needed to secure the capital and the eastern part of the country, vowing to work to disarm local militias.
The French leader is scheduled to meet President Catherine Samba-Panza and the archbishop of Bangui, as well as the French contingent stationed in the capital, according to the French presidency.
CAR descended into anarchy in March 2013 when Seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslim – ousted Francois Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup. The rebels later installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as interim president.
In the months since, the country has been plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between Christian anti-balaka militias and former seleka fighters.
Violence against Muslims has intensified since Samba-Panza, a Christian, was elected interim president in January.
Christians, who constitute the majority of CAR`s population, accuse Muslims of supporting former seleka rebels blamed for attacking Christian homes, looting property and carrying out summary executions.
Along with French troops, there are also 6000 African peacekeeping troops currently deployed in CAR.
CAR Muslims have repeatedly accused foreign peacekeeping troops of failing to disarm anti-balaka militants.
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