First EU troops arrive in Central Africa

Deployment comes as former colonial power France calls for vote on resolution to pave way for 12,000-strong force.

    The African Union is trying to fill the gap left by Chad which withdrew its troops from the mission last week [AFP]
    The African Union is trying to fill the gap left by Chad which withdrew its troops from the mission last week [AFP]

    The first EU troops have arrived in Bangui, capital of the strife-torn Central African Republic, a spokesman for the French army told AFP news agency.

    Francois Guillermet said 55 soldiers from the European Union Force (EUFOR) were conducting their first patrols in the city on Wednesday, with the aim of "maintaining security and training local officers".

    France also called for a vote on Thursday on a resolution that would authorise a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force to take over from an African force less than half its size in the former French colony which has been wracked by ethnic violence.

    France's UN Mission said on Wednesday it expects the Security Council to unanimously approve the resolution authorising 10,000 troops and 1,800 police to replace more than 5,000 African Union soldiers on September 15.

    The arrival of the troops came as Samatha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, made her second visit to the Central African Republic since the sectarian violence started in December.

    Power called for more support for the existing African and French troops in the country.

    "There's no question that we need to redouble our efforts - we're making them every day anyway,'' she told reporters in Bangui.

    "But this adds even more urgency to the task of getting more troops and more police deployed rapidly in order to fill those gaps which really do exist."

    The African Union peacekeeping mission is trying to fill the gap left by neighbouring Chad, which last week began withdrawing its 850 troops following allegations some of its soldiers had indiscriminately killed dozens of unarmed civilians.

    The forces from Chad, a Muslim country to the north, were particularly despised in Bangui by Christians who accused them of backing the Seleka militia.

    A group of Chadian soldiers fired upon civilians late last month, killing at least 32 people, though Chad maintains its forces had come under fire first from militiamen among the crowd.

    The UN has said its preliminary investigation determined that the Chadians fired indiscriminately and used excessive force. At least 22 African peacekeepers and three French soldiers have been killed since December.

    The Central African Republic has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power. Christian anti-Balaka militiamen attacked Seleka strongholds in December, forcing thousands of Muslims to flee.

    SOURCE: AFP


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