France to Boost Central African Republic Forces Amid ‘Chaos’

France is considering tripling its forces in Central African Republic as the country faces the risk of “massive implosion” that threatens other countries in the region, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

The French government is considering sending 800 additional troops to its former colony, Fabius said in an interview on France Culture radio today in Paris. The United Nations warned the country is descending into “complete chaos” amid a growing number of atrocities against civilians.

“The country faces a desperate security situation,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a Security Council meeting in New York yesterday. “The use of child soldiers is rising and sexual violence is growing. There are widespread reports of looting, illegal checkpoints, extortion, arbitrary arrests, torture and summary executions.”

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 left about 400,000 people displaced within the country and forced 220,000 to flee their homeland, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Washington-based lobby group.

‘Failed State’

Central African Republic is “a failed state headed by a fragile transition government, one which is powerless given the daunting task of bringing the country out of the crisis,” Ahmad Allam-Mi, secretary-general of the Economic Community of Central African States, said at the Security Council briefing.

The council is scheduled to vote by next week on the type of support to be provided to Central African Republic. France already has 410 troops in the country, while the African Union in July authorized a 3,600-member peacekeeping force to help stabilize the country.

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.

Unstable Situation

South Atlantic Petroleum Ltd., a Lagos, Nigeria-based company searching for oil in southwestern Central African Republic, plans to conduct a seismic survey next year if the situation in the country stabilizes, Chief Executive Officer Martin Trachsel said.

“It’s not a stable situation outside of Bangui,” the capital, Trachsel said in an interview today in Cape Town. “We need the situation to calm down for a couple months before we have expats going back into the area.”

Only about 2,600 members of the African Union force have been deployed in Central African Republic so far, according to Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group. Tensions and clashes between different ethnic and religious communities are increasing, it said in an e-mailed statement.

Muslim, Christian

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, Amnesty said.

“The international community must take action before it is too late to ensure that the abuses come to an end and that CAR isn’t catapulted into the international spotlight because it became a human catastrophe,” the group said.

Fabius described the situation in the country as “abominable,” with only seven surgeons for 25 million people.

The African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States want the UN to provide support for the “deployment and sustenance” of an African-led International Support Mission in the country, Adonia Ayebare, an African Union diplomat, said in a statement published by the continental body today. The two organizations are working to ensure the crisis is addressed effectively, he said.

“Central African Republic challenges are Africa’s challenges,” Ayebare said. “Overcoming them successfully requires the mobilization of the entire continent.

The Central African Republic, with a population of 4.5 million people, shares borders with Cameroon to the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Republic to its south, Sudan and South Sudan to the east and Chad to the north.

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