Europe Sends 800-Strong Force to Central African Republic

Europe will deploy an 800-strong military force in the Central African Republic for about 10 months, said French General Philippe Ponties, who commands the operation.

The European mission, authorized by the United Nations Security Council, will deploy in the capital city of Bangui and the national airport, Ponties said today at a press conference in Brussels. The military operation, which may be deployed by the end of May, will “contribute to a secure environment” in the Central African Republic, he said.

The mission is to provide temporary support in the Bangui area, with a view to handing over to a UN peacekeeping operation or to African partners. The force will ensure “the rule of law,” Ponties said.

France initially started a peacekeeping operation in December. It has 1,600 troops in Central Africa. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in February that the annual cost to France is 200 million euros ($275 million).

“It is vital that there is a return to public order as soon as possible, so that the political transition process can be put back on track,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said yesterday.

Thirteen nations will participate to the European military operation, including Spain, Portugal, Estonia and Georgia. France will contribute 450 troops on top of the 1,600 soldiers already in the African nation, the French president’s office said.

Military Operation

The European Union will contribute 25.9 million euros for the operation, and each participating country will also help finance its own forces. Germany will contribute strategic air-transport to deploy the troops.

“In the current situation in Bangui, we have to deal with bandit activities,” Ponties said. “Most of them are equipped with light weapons and machetes. There is no change since the very beginning of the crisis,” he said.

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon unveiled today in Brussels the organization’s peace resolution that aims to deploy UN troops in the Central African Republic in September. He said he expects the resolution to be submitted to vote this month at the Security Council.

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