France is planning to send 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic. The move is designed to aid African soldiers currently fighting to keep order in a country embroiled in sectarian violence.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed the news Tuesday, saying France would launch a six-month mission in the Central African Republic, which has been in turmoil since rebel groups came together to oust the president in March. The rebels, many of whom come from neighboring Chad and Sudan, have been accused of committing human rights violations, including killings, rape and conscripting child soldiers.
"It's in collapse and we cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. "It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return."
The news came a day after France's United Nations ambassador, Gerard Araud, said his government was ready to intervene in the country as soon as the UN Security Council gives its mandate. France already has 450 troops in the Central African Republic, a former French colony.
UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson on Monday urged the Security Council to boost the already 3,000-strong African Union-led force in the country and turn it into a peacekeeping force. Eliasson said the situation in the Central African Republic was deteriorating rapidly, and that it was becoming "a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups."
The rebel alliance that overthrew President Francois Bozize in March was officially disbanded in September, but has been refusing to disarm. Around 400,000 people have been displaced amid the rising Sectarian violence between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian militias.
"There is a risk of implosion in all respects which is absolutely massive," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Culture radio. "Until now, only Central Africans were threatened, but if the [power] vacuum and implosion sets in, it will threaten all countries in the region: Chad, Sudan, the Congo and Cameroon."
France also has around 2,800 troops in Mali, also a former French colony. Paris launched its operation there last winter when rebels and al Qaeda-linked militants took control of large parts of the country's north and began moving towards the capital.
dr/hc (AP, dpa, Reuters)