Chad Peacekeepers Exit Central African Republic After Criticism

Chad is withdrawing its peacekeepers from the Central African Republic because it wants to protect the reputation of its forces amid criticism they aren’t neutral, Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat said.

“For several months we have seen a systematic barrage of criticism against Chad, its contingent and even of Chadian citizens living in the Central African Republic,” Mahamat told Radio France Internationale in an interview late yesterday. “It is better for us that there aren’t any Chadian soldiers in Central African Republic.”

Chad deployed about 850 troops as part of an African Union-led peacekeeping mission attempting to stop attacks on people seen as siding with mainly Muslim rebels who seized power in a coup last year.

The criticism of Chadian soldiers by “high-ranking political officials” intensified after they killed an unknown number of mainly Christian anti-balaka, or anti-machete, militia last week, Mahamat said. “They were caught in an ambush by anti-balaka and of course, they responded,” he said, without giving further details.

At least 1,400 people have been killed in fighting in Central African Republic since December, a Red Cross official said March 31. In February, members of the anti-balaka militia killed at least 72 Muslim men and boys, some as young as 9 years old, in villages in the sparsely populated southwest of the country, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report published yesterday.

Europe will send an 800-strong military force to help French and African peacekeepers secure the capital, Bangui, as soon as May, French General Philippe Ponties said April 2. Former colonial ruler France has 1,600 troops in the country, while the African Union has deployed about 6,000 soldiers.

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