France, Congo Send Troops to CAR as Amnesty Urges UN Deployment
France and the Congo Republic deployed soldiers in the Central African Republic before a United Nations Security Council meeting that will decide on how to stabilize the country eight months after a coup.
Five hundred Congolese troops arrived in the capital, Bangui, yesterday, bringing to 2,800 the number of African Union-led peacekeeping forces that have been deployed, Jean-Felix Akaga, head of the Multinational Force for Central Africa, known as Fomac, said in a phone interview. A day earlier, France sent 200 communications and logistics personnel, Colonel Eugene Depig, a military official at the French Embassy, said today.
The African Union force, supported by French troops, may be inadequate to stem the “horrific cycle of violence” in Central African Republic, Amnesty International said. The London-based advocacy group urged Security Council members meeting on Dec. 5 to request that a UN peacekeeping force be sent to the country.
Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia has failed to impose law and order on the former French colony since March, when he seized power after a rebellion that overthrew former President Francois Bozize. An ensuing conflict has forced one in 10 people in the country to flee their homes, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Geneva-based medical charity.
Central African Republic is the world’s 11th biggest producer of rough diamonds by volume, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The gems, along with timber exports, are the largest source of foreign-exchange for the $3.6 billion economy. The country also produces oil and has deposits of uranium, the USGS says on its website.
The African Union has a mandate to deploy 3,600 troops in Central African Republic. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last month France plans to send 800 more troops to bolster the 400 personnel already deployed in the country, which is at risk of “massive implosion.”
“The Security Council must request that the UN Secretary-General immediately start preparations for the deployment of a robust peacekeeping force, with a mandate to protect civilians, including internally displaced persons,” Amnesty said in an e-mailed statement. “Troops on the ground must have the resources necessary to stop the ongoing abuses and rein in armed groups and forces that have already spun out of control over the past year.”
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a Security Council meeting last week that the security situation in the country is “desperate,” amid the increasing use of child soldiers, a growing number of incidents of sexual violence, looting, arbitrary arrests and summary executions.
In the latest violent incident, at least four people were killed and 10 others were wounded in clashes between fighters from the rebel Seleka group and anti-Seleka forces, known as anti-balaka, at Damara, 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of the capital, according to Radio Ndeke Luka, a Bangui-backed broadcaster.
Seleka began its rebellion last year, after accusing Bozize of failing to honor peace accords, one of which had helped form a unity government. The insurgents resumed combat in March, saying Bozize had failed to meet a new set of demands, before deposing him. Djotodia dissolved the rebel group in September.
Tensions and clashes between different ethnic and religious communities are increasing, Amnesty said last week. The majority of the country’s population, like Bozize, is Christian. Djotodia and most members of the security forces are Muslim along with former rebel fighters, who are mainly from the northeast and neighboring Chad and Sudan, it said.
Central African Republic Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye will travel to Paris this week to take part in an informal summit on the crisis taking place on Dec. 7, state radio reported today. French officials said yesterday the meeting will discuss differences over what the African Union force will do and what support is needed from France.
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