ADDIS ABABA — The African Union (AU) is ready to deploy extra troops in the Central African Republic if the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) requests it.
ECCAS is considering asking for an increased military presence in the country, where a peace-keeping mission of about 400 soldiers is already active. A rebel group known as Seleka, which began an offensive in the north on December 10, is now within 300 kilometers of the capital, Bangui.
Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner of the AU's Peace and Security Council, says union officials are already taking preliminary steps to assist ECCAS.
“If and when ECCAS expresses the request to the African Union that we should, from our end, mobilize beyond that region, the African Union is not only ready to engage in to such an exercise, but we have already taken some preparatory contexts to that effect," he said.
Seleka has seized 10 cities since launching attacks two weeks ago. The group claims that President Francois Bozize is not implementing agreements of a 2007 peace accord that ended a prior uprising. The United States Embassy and the United Nations have already evacuated employees because of the violence.
While Commissioner Lamamra admits there have been shortcomings in implementing the agreements, he strongly condemned the current developments, calling the rebel campaign unjustified.
“Rebel movements are considered as illegal, and therefore we and the African Union consider that rebel movements should be deterred from resorting to force" even if the rebels and others recognize the legitimacy of the Seleka agenda, he said.
Regional ministers of foreign affairs are gathered in Gabon Friday to start negotiations between the rebels and the government. The African Union will only consider expanding the military force if dialogue proves to be unsuccessful.
The Central African Republic gained independence from France in 1960 but has since seen many conflicts, coups and uprisings. President Bozize came to power in 2003 after a rebellion against the former government.