Saturday, December 28, 2013

French President Hollande Requests Additional United Nations Intervention in the CAR

French President Hollande Requests Additional United Nations Intervention in the CAR

Anti-Paris demonstrations escalate as Chadian troops are killed

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

France has admitted that 1,600 of their troops are now operating in the Central African Republic. The country is a former French colony which has faced internal fighting between the governing Muslim-dominated Seleka Coalition and the opposition Anti-Balaka forces which are heavily Christian.

Although France worked out an arrangement with the United Nations Security Council to win authorization to intervene earlier in 2013, the government of Francois Hollande has requested additional troops to assist its military contingent and soldiers from Chad acting on behalf of the African Union Mission to CAR (MISCA).

Hollande says that his military will only be in the CAR for six months. Yet similar claims were made in regard to the invasion of Mali one year ago but thousands of French troops still remain in this West African state.

Interim President Michel Djotodia remains in his palace in Bangui after seizing power in March of 2013. He overthrew the government of Francois Bozize which had also come to power through a coup ten years earlier.

On December 26, reports emanating from Bangui said that the presidential palace came under heavy gunfire. The attacks were repelled but violence has continued in the capital.

Chadian troops have been accused of supporting the Seleka Coalition while France is said to be more sympathetic to the Christian community which makes up 85 percent of the population. Both respective governments have denied the claims of political favoritism in the conflict.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani said on December 24 that “Since their deployment Dec. 5, the soldiers of the Sangaris (French) operation are operating according to three principles: impartiality, firmness and controlled use of force. They are demonstrating this daily, in contributing to the disarming of all armed groups, without distinction, and in intervening between groups to avoid violence and abuses.”(Associated Press, December 24)

Demonstrations Escalate Against French and Chadian Troops

Despite the public statements by the Hollande government of impartiality, there is growing dissatisfaction among the Muslim population of the CAR against France. On December 24 there was a demonstration in the capital demanding that Paris withdraw its troops from the country.

According to an Associated Press report “Dozens of Muslims marched down the streets of Bangui on Tuesday (December 24) to demand the departure of French troops, who were deployed to the Central African Republic this month to try to pacify fighting but instead have been accused of taking sides in the nation’s sectarian conflict. The marchers, almost all of them young and male, began their demonstration in the Kilometer 5 neighborhood, a mostly Muslim section of the capital that has been the scene of clashes with French forces.” (December 26)

The demonstration on December 24 followed a much larger one on December 22 that enjoyed the participation of thousands of Muslims. They are accusing France of attempting to disarm the Seleka Coalition. There have been reports of mass killings of Muslims by the Anti-Balaka militias who are seeking the removal of President Djotodia.

This same article points out how the demonstration was explicitly anti-French noting that “the crowds making their way down the deserted city streets were holding signs that said: ‘We say No to France!’ and ‘Hollande = Liar.’ Other signs had a hand-drawn map of this nation located at the heart of Africa, but showed the country split in two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the north.”

Such sentiments could broaden opposition to the French occupation and consequently prompting the Hollande government to request additional foreign intervention. Recent surveys as well in France indicate that public support which was never very strong for the military operation in the CAR is declining among the population. (Presna Latina, December 15)

Hollande’s call for a broader UN peacekeeping force coincided with an open letter published in the Washington Post jointly signed by Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Bangui, and Omar Kabine Layama, President of the Central African Republic Islamic Community. This letter was tantamount to a public appeal for more United States and French involvement in the country.

The letter read in part that “We recently met with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, in Bangui and told her that the security provided by a U.N. peacekeeping force could give us the chance to safeguard our country’s future. With the help of U.N. blue helmets to secure our roads and our homes, aid and vaccinations can replace fear with hope — and can show a real peace dividend that would help us unite our people. A U.N. commitment to our country would allow us to focus on restoring coexistence between our communities.” (Washington Post, December 27)

Meanwhile sentiments are also running very high against the presence of Chadian troops who have also fought alongside France in their Malian campaign since early 2013. Several Chadian troops have been killed in the CAR along with at least two soldiers from France.

An AU spokesman for MISCA, Eloi Yao, announced on December 26 that the day before six Chadian peacekeeping troops were killed and fifteen others were wounded in an ambush in the capital. He did not explain who was thought to be behind the attacks.

During a demonstration near the airport outside Bangui on December 23, Chadian troops opened fire on protesters killing at least one person and wounding several others. The demonstration held by members of the CAR Christian community called for the resignation of Djotodia and the withdrawal of Chadian troops from the country.

Many within the Christian community have blamed the Chadian government under Iddris Deby of fomenting the rebellion against Bozize during 2012 and early 2013 resulting in the seizure of power by the Seleka coalition.

Therefore, it appears as if the French intervention which is backed up by the U.S. may have the opposite impact of what was intended. The absence of an AU force that can act independently of Paris and Washington is hampering any genuine efforts to bring lasting peace and security to the country.

The CAR has a relatively small population of less than five million people but contains substantial mineral wealth that is of interests to the imperialist states. Gold, diamonds, uranium and other mineral deposits in the country only make up seven percent of the gross domestic product. The Western states are very interested in exploiting these resources on a broader level and can only do so when they have firm control over the political and security situation inside the country.

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