France seeks more help in CAR

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French soldiers take position on their tank while they monitor displaced people leaving after a food distribution process was cancelled in Socati stadium, in Bangui. Picture: Emmanuel Braun

Paris -

France's foreign minister will ask his European counterparts on Monday for more help in the Central African Republic, where a French-backed military force is trying to quell deadly sectarian violence.

“Tomorrow I will go to the Foreign Affairs Council (in Brussels) and I will ask that there be more solid, stronger support,” Laurent Fabius said Sunday on Europe 1 radio.

He said Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium were already helping with logistics.

Asked whether some of these five states may actually go further and send troops to prop up French and African forces already on the ground, he said “two of them are currently considering (this)”, without identifying them.

“I would not at all be shocked if there was more presence (on the ground),” he added.

“There are 4.5 million people in Central Africa, nearly half are in pre-famine conditions. Of these 4.5 million people, there are seven surgeons. So France, Europe, Africans, and the international community must mobilise (for the country).”

Central Africa has spiralled into chaos since a March coup by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president Francois Bozize, with deadly violence pitting Muslims against Christians.

Faced with reports of widespread atrocities in its former colony, France on December 5 decided to deploy 1 600 troops to prop up an African peacekeeping force already on the ground.

Soldiers began disarming militias - many of them former Seleka rebels that had gone rogue - but bands of armed thugs continue to roam the streets and more than 600 people have been killed in the country in the last 10 days, some in mob lynchings.

Fabius rejected accusations that the French army had precipitated the massacre of Muslims by disarming the former Seleka and leaving them without weapons and at the mercy of Christian militia intent on revenge.

“The Seleka... still have weapons and sometimes heavy weapons,” he said.

“So the first task is to disarm these heavy weapons.

“We also go to the Christians to say 'you must disarm'“, he said. - Sapa-AFP

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