‘Bangui needs more boots on the ground’

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IOL pic dec10 car bangui french troops on patrol

Reuters

French soldiers patrol on foot in Bangui, in the Central African Republic. Picture: Herve Serefio

Bangui -

Chad President Idriss Deby on Tuesday called on the UN to commit more troops to the Central African Republic in order to end the crisis in the strife-torn country.

Speaking at a press conference after talks with CAR’s interim President Catherine Samba-Panza in Ndjamena, Chad's capital, Deby warned that France and the African Union “cannot carry out their mission properly whatever their determination” as they did not have enough troops.

“We need more men, more means,” said Deby, adding that only the UN could provide troops in large numbers.

Deby also urged the Central African government to negotiate with the ex-rebel Seleka movement.

“Contacts should be established with Seleka elements that returned to their region in the north,” he said.

A mooted UN peacekeeping operation could involve nearly 10 000 troops but would need the green light of the so-far wary African Union and a UN Security Council resolution.

Currently there are 2 000 French troops and 5 400 African troops already on the ground. In addition, 1 000 European Union troops are to be sent to the country.

Deby's comments came as it was claimed that 11 people had been killed in further clashes between African peacekeepers and fighters from the mainly Christian “anti-balaka” militia.

The MISCA African Union force said in a statement that a convoy of civilians under its escort was attacked by anti-balaka elements carrying firearms.

Eleven assailants were killed and 12 civilians injured in the incident in which the African Union troops acted in self-defence, it added.

Earlier, a gendarmerie source said the clashes at Cantonnier, near the border with Cameroon, had left eight people dead - two anti-balaka and six civilians.

The clash occurred at a checkpoint erected by the anti-balaka when a MISCA patrol refused to comply with the demands of the militiamen, the gendarmerie said.

At least one person also died late Tuesday when MISCA peacekeepers from Chad opened fire on civilians as a group of Muslims fled the capital city under their escort near the international airport.

An AFP reporter saw a body lying on the roadside, with the MISCA peacekeepers leaving the area. Angry residents wielding knives said another person was killed nearby.

Subduing the anti-balaka forces, who emerged last year to wreak havoc on the strife-torn country's Muslim minority, is one of the priorities for African and French troops sent to help restore order amid deadly chaos.

Interim President Samba-Panza has vowed to “go to war” on the anti-balaka, who claim to seek vengeance for atrocities committed by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, which temporarily seized power in March last year.

The Seleka coup plunged the country into chaos, unleashing a wave of Muslim-Christian violence that has left thousands dead. Hundreds of thousands of people have also been displaced by the brutal surge of killings, mutilations, rapes and looting.

With the intervention of French and African troops, the security situation is gradually improving in the southern capital Bangui but the unrest has continued unabated in other parts of the country.

Former Seleka rebels are blamed by local residents for killing at least 22 people in the western town of Bang since last Thursday, according to Florent Geel, the Africa director of the International Federation for Human Rights, who was visiting Bangui.

“The assailants looted administrative buildings and places of worship,” Geel said.

However, other local sources said that the violence was carried out by men following Abdel Kader Baba Ladde, a Chadian former rebel leader who has been on the run since 2012.

His fighters fell back into western CAR and some were said to have joined the Seleka.

“On Sunday morning, we heard shots in several parts of Bang. Baba Ladde's men started firing in the air, putting people to flight,” local farmer Martin Himi Dana told AFP by telephone.

“On the ground, we counted two people dead. They detained seven other people and forced them to leave with them. The bodies of these seven people were found yesterday with bullet wounds a few kilometres (miles) from Bang,” Dana added. - Sapa-AFP


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