French troops to rescue after CAR carnage
BANGUI, Central African Republic: French military reinforcements rumbled into the CAR yesterday to quell violence in the capital, a day after Christian fighters raided Muslim neighbourhoods.
There was no repeat of the clashes in Bangui that left nearly 100 people dead the day before, said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
France began sending reinforcements within hours of the UN vote authorising its troops to try to stabilise the country.
Scores died in Thursday’s attack, including 48 people whose bodies were laid out at a mosque. Doctors Without Borders said another 50 deaths had been confirmed.
France has cautioned that its aims are limited – to bring a minimum of security to a capital where people now fear to leave their homes, and to support an African-led force.
“You have to ensure that the vandals, the bandits, the militias know they can’t use the streets of Bangui for their battles,” said Le Drian.
Some of those killed on Thursday died of bullet wounds, others from machete (balaka) blows. The Christian militia adopted the moniker “anti-balaka” in reference to prior attacks on Christians.
Rebel leader- turned- president Michel Djotodia appealed for calm, even as his residence and that of the prime minister were looted and vandalised by the fighters. He announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
“This morning the enemies of Central African Republic wanted to destabilise the country but they have failed,” Djotodia announced.
France already has hundreds of soldiers in Bangui, and military vehicles patrolled the streets.
Le Drian said a helicopter detachment was arriving, along with more troops.
Djotodia, the current ruler, who is Muslim, managed to unify several rebel groups in the mostly Muslim north, where resentment of the federal government and a sense of disenfranchisement has been rife for years. Once the Seleka rebels were unleashed upon the capital, he wielded very little control over the mix of bush fighters, child soldiers and foreign mercenaries he had recruited along the way.
Before long, human rights groups were documenting cases of Seleka rebels going door to door with machetes, bludgeoning their victims and burning down scores of homes.
Supporters of the ousted president began rising up in opposition to the lawless and ruthless rebels, forming selfdefence militias. Thursday’s attack demonstrates that these fighters are more than vengeance- seeking civilians with hunting rifles. – Sapa-AP