The presence of Chadians among African Union troops is further complicating the combustible situation in the Central African Republic. They have clashed with demonstrators, killing one person and injuring around 40.
The Chadian soldiers - part of a United Nations-mandated AU force, opened fire on protesters in the nation’s capital, Bangui, on Monday. Said to be of Christian faith, the demonstrators had gathered to demand the resignation of President Michel Djobotia. They were also protesting against the presence of the Chadian soldiers, who locals accuse of sided with Muslim Seleka rebels. Some of the Muslim rebels are said to be nationals of Chad, something that has led to other Chadians becoming targets of violence.
"France hopes that light will be shed on the conditions of the use of force against demonstrators," French Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani said in reaction to the news that the AU troops had opened fire on the protest.
It comes just a day after French troops killed three people in a skirmish, also in Bangui. The French army said its soldiers had opened fire against “a group of half-a-dozen people suspected of being ex-Seleka” and who “were prepared to use their weapons.”
Killed 'in cold blood'
That was disputed by CAR presidential spokesman Guy Simplice Kodegue to news agency AFP, who said the group in question were members of the presidential guard and “were killed in cold blood.”
"This was not a disarmament operation and no shots were fired, contrary to what was reported in certain French media," said Kodegue, who claimed the men were formerly of the Seleka rebels were driving in a vehicle when they were stopped.
"They were shot dead despite having shown their badges and papers proving their mandate. It was deliberate.”
France has 1,600 soldiers in its former colony, alongside the 4,000-strong AU force. They have been tasked with quelling the violence that has shaken the Central African Republic since March, when former President Francois Bozize was overthrown and Djobotia installed in his place.
Djobotia - the Central African Republic’s first Muslim leader - quickly lost control of the Seleka group that brought him to power.
Djotobia outlawed the Seleka militia in September, but the violence has continued to rage on. Amnesty International estimates that around 1,000 have been killed in attacks since December 5 alone. It said these have mainy been carried out by former Muslim rebels, but also included reprisal attacks by Christians on Muslims.
Also on Monday, the European Union announced a ban on the export of arms and the sending of mercenaries to the Central African Republic.
ph/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)