French troops pour into Central African Republic

December 08, 2013 - 7:03:45 am

France’s President Francois Hollande (centre) and Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (left) attend a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris at the end of the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, yesterday. 
BANGUI, Central African Republic: French troops received a triumphant welcome as they deployed in strife-torn Central African Republic yesterday, with thousands cheering their arrival as part of a bid to stamp out deadly sectarian violence.

French President Francois Hollande said reinforcements to a UN-mandated force would reach 1,600 troops — 400 more than previously envisaged — and had been told to “disarm all the militias and armed groups terrorising the population”.

Sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian communities, which has swept the nation since a March coup, has left at least 300 dead in a wave of massacres and reprisal attacks since Thursday, the Red Cross said.

French troops patrolled the capital in a visible show of strength yesterday and a fighter jet flew low over the city, where bodies still lay abandoned outside the parliament building. Red Cross staff continue to pick up dead and mutilated bodies from the streets, but have been overwhelmed by the scale of the task. 

Around 200 French troops crossed the border from Cameroon into the mainly Christian town of Bouar in the west of the country, where cheering residents blew horns, danced and banged on saucepans to welcome them.

“Save us. We have suffered so much,” shouted Cedric, 15, in Bouar, one of France’s main military bases in Africa and a nerve centre for the area that saw some of the worst violence at the height of the Seleka rebellion.

Local builder Serge Dilamo said: “There are deaths, they are killing us. Everyone knows someone who was killed.”

Hollande told the end of a summit with African leaders in Paris that the French troops would be deployed wherever civilians were in danger. AFP
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