By Leigh Thomas
France expects to get U.N. backing next week to increase its troop numbers in the Central African Republic, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday, warning violence risked spreading in the region.
The landlocked nation of 4.6 million people has descended into violence and chaos since Seleka rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March.
CAR’s prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, said on Monday Fabius had told him France aimed to boost its number of soldiers in the country by 800 from about 400.
“We are going to reinforce our presence,” Fabius said on France Culture radio. “For that we are waiting for a United Nations resolution that should come next week.”
Asked about the figure of 800 additional troops, Fabius said the number “makes sense”, but he did not elaborate further.
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said at the United Nations that the French troops would restore law and order until an African Union force of 3,600 troops – known as MISCA – was fully operational.
In addition to the French troops in the country, there is a 2,500-strong regional peacekeeping force deployed by the Economic Community of Central African States. The African Union is due to take charge of that force in December and boost its size.
The violence in the mineral-rich but impoverished country has increasingly pitted the mainly Muslim fighters of the Seleka rebels against Christian militias. Christians make up half the population and Muslims 15 percent.
“There is a risk of implosion in all respects which is absolutely massive,” Fabius said.
“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 Camero0n.”