South African President Jacob Zuma said foreign troops need to intervene urgently in the Central African Republic because security is deteriorating and the government isn’t prepared to hold elections on schedule.
The country descended into anarchy after Seleka rebels removed President Francois Bozize in March, prompting international condemnation and the country’s suspension from the African Union. Former rebel leader Michel Djotodia, who became transitional president, has failed to restore order even after disbanding Seleka last month. The United Nation has warned instability in the mineral-rich nation posts a regional threat.
“The problem is getting worse, even religion is coming into play,” Zuma told reporters at a briefing in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, alongside Francois Hollande, the president of France, the former colonial ruler of Central African Republic. “We need to intervene as soon as possible,” Zuma said.
France may increase the number of troops in the Central African Republic from 410 with approval from the UN to help restore security in the country by the end of the year, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic.
The United Nations Security Council last week took an initial step toward deploying a UN peacekeeping force in the nation. The council authorized Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take 30 days to study ways to support an African Union peacekeeping mission, which is deploying 3,600 soldiers. About 2,100 of those forces have been sent from four countries, Fabius said.
“In CAR, it is a state of emergency and also a political emergency since there is no state,” Hollande said today in Pretoria. “There is also a risk of regional spillover.”
Seleka began its rebellion after accusing Bozize of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. An agreement signed in Libreville in January ended the fighting and created a unity government. The insurgents resumed combat in March, saying Bozize, who turns 67 today, had failed to meet a new set of demands, and ousted the leader on March 24. Regional leaders meeting to discuss progress on a peace plan in April urged Djotodia to hold elections within 18 months.
“We were clear that we would not allow a coup, and gave 18 months for elections preparation,” said Zuma. “It is clear elections cannot happen.”
South Africa withdrew troops stationed from the country after 13 of its soldiers died in clashes with Seleka during the rebellion. A month later, Zuma said he’s ready if requested to return soldiers to the country as part of a multinational peacekeeping force.
Central African Republic has a gross domestic product of about $3.6 billion and earns most of its foreign currency from timber and diamond exports, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The Central African Republic has a high potential to become the next Somalia as “the breeding ground for all terrorists” if lawlessness is permitted to continue without any action, Fabius told reporters on Sept. 25. Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, is trying to impose Islamic law in the country, which has been mired in conflict since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre more than 20 years ago.