News / Africa

France Wants Action on Central Africa 'Sectarian Poison'

FILE - Central African troops in charge of disarmament drive a tank through Bangui, Central African Republic.
FILE - Central African troops in charge of disarmament drive a tank through Bangui, Central African Republic.
Reuters
France's foreign minister heads to the Central African Republic (CAR) on Sunday aiming to drum up international interest for a largely forgotten crisis that risks dragging Paris into a new military intervention in one of its former colonies.
 
The nation has descended into chaos since mostly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in March, the latest coup in the country that remains one of the world's poorest despite resources ranging from gold to uranium.
 
France has urged world and regional powers not to ignore a conflict that has already seen more than 400,000 people driven from their homes by acts of violence such as murder and rape.
 
Paris is reluctant to be left to deal with another African hotspot after it felt allies such as the United States were hesitant to help it halt a rebel advance by al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Mali earlier this year.
 
“There is an explosive cocktail in CAR and we fear this country will become a magnet for all the armed groups in the region,” a French diplomatic source said ahead of Laurent Fabius' trip to the capital Bangui, the first by a French foreign minister in more than 10 years.
 
While CAR is rich in minerals, that wealth is largely unexploited thanks to decades of instability and the spillover from conflicts in larger neighbors including Sudan to the east and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south.
 
Mercenaries from Chad and Sudan already form a large portion of Seleka rebels. Janjaweed Arab fighters from Darfur are present. Members of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, which Uganda accuses Khartoum of backing, have set up in the country.
 
CAR is geographically at the center of what some strategists have called an “arc of insecurity” involving Islamic militants and stretching from Kenya and Somalia in eastern Africa to Mauritania in the west.
 
The power vacuum in CAR is paving the way for al Qaeda-linked Islamists ousted from Mali, while lawlessness in north Cameroon is opening a route to CAR for Nigeria's Boko Haram.
 
“We are seeing the start of an internal sectarian poison that we never had in the past coupled with an international aspect that we hadn't seen either,” said the source.
 
Poor relationship
 
Unlike some of its other colonies in Africa, France has had a poor relationship with CAR since independence in 1960, and has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis, urging African nations to do their utmost to resolve it.
 
The African Union has responded by deploying about 2,500 troops as part of its 3,600-strong MISCA mission, made up of forces from Chad, Gabon, Congo Republic and Cameroon.
 
But its material, logistic and financial resources are limited, prompting Paris to seek a U.N. Security Council mandate that would address that and turn MISCA into a U.N. peacekeeping force ultimately supported by French troops.
 
“It's not obvious, because CAR doesn't interest anybody. People hardly know where it is, and if we don't do it then nobody will,” said another French diplomat.
 
The immediate objective is to minimize the level of support Paris has to give by ensuring that collectively Africa, the United Nations, EU and France act together.
 
It also wants transitional president and former Seleka leader Michel Djotodia to completely disassociate himself from the rebels and abide by an 18-month timeline to elections.
 
“We're not looking for new interventions here or there. It's not for France to solve the crisis. It's no longer our role to be Africa's policeman,” said a senior French official.
 
“On top of that a mission like this is very costly and let's not pretend we can't do it alone given our budgetary issues.”
 
But if the hope is to get other world powers mobilized, there is a degree of realism in Paris that it may at some point have to get directly involved given that the level of Security Council support for giving MISCA a U.N. mandate is unclear.
 
Paris, which has about 400 troops in CAR protecting the airport and French interests, has already explored some options.
 
It could seek to boost its troop numbers to 1,200 to quickly restore security on the ground, or increase the force to 700-750 soldiers with a specific role to support MISCA.
 
It may also decide to keep the contingent's size unchanged, but turn it into a rapid reaction force.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid