French defense minister made 'surprise' visit to CAR
By Sylvestre Krock, Monday, May 19, 2014
BANGUI – French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has paid a surprise visit to Bangui, capital of the troubled Central African Republic (CAR), an Anadolu Agency correspondent has reported.
Le Drian met with CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza and French peacekeepers deployed in the country, the correspondent said, quoting the head of Samba-Panza's office.
French media, including prominent daily Le Monde, reported that Le Drian's visit to the African country had only lasted a few hours on Sunday night, adding that Bangui had not been on the French minister's itinerary.
Le Drian conducted closed-door talks with Samba-Panza before meeting with French peacekeepers, according to the chief of the president's office.
He added that Le Drian had then boarded his plane to return to France.
The presidential office chief, however, did not provide any information regarding the issues discussed by the French minister and Samba-Panza.
Le Drian paid a visit to several West African states last week to discuss means of reorganizing the French military presence in the region and countering Nigeria's militant Boko Haram group.
CAR, a landlocked, mineral-rich country, descended into anarchy one year ago when seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslim – ousted Christian president Francois Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
According to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), around 173,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence since last December, while 37,000 others have fled to neighboring countries.
Over 30,000 have sought refuge in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo, while Chad has received 5600 and Cameroon roughly 1000 refugees, according to UNHCR figures.
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