French Boosting Military Presence in CAR Ahead of UN Security Council Vote


Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/wikimedia

According to Reuters, armed men killed twelve civilians and wounded 30 others in the Central African Republic yesterday, one of the latest signs of the worsening situation in the country since rebels ousted President François Bozizé in March this year. (Bozizé seized power in a 2003 coup with the backing of Chad.) Rebels have said that Bozizé did not comply with agreements made between 2007 and 2011 during the Central African Republic Bush War. A deal made in January to form a unity government failed.

Tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will vote on whether to send an African Union force on a 12-month deployment to CAR. Diplomats said today that the resolution is expected to pass unanimously. The United Nation's deputy secretary general recently warned that the deteriorating situation between the Muslim and Christian communities could develop into a genocide.

In October, French President Francois Hollande warned of religious conflict and potential spillover, saying, "There is also an emergency at a regional level because there is a risk of spillover. We might witness religious conflict."

The French have recently boosted their military presence in their former colony amid the deteriorating situation. In December last year, Bozizé asked for the U.S. and France to help halt rebel advances. At the time Hollande said that the days of the French intervening in "the internal affairs of a country" were gone. The next month, the French launched Operation Serval, the intervention in Mali.

As Paul Melly, the BBC's West Africa analyst has explained, the intervention in Mali has laid groundwork for a mission in CAR:

The warm sub-Saharan welcome for the Malian intervention has helped to create a climate in which France can more easily intervene in the CAR. And that subject will surely have been on the menu of Mr Hollande's talks with President Jacob Zuma during a recent visit to South Africa.

This time, as in Mali, the African political ground for a French deployment has been carefully prepared.

Although the U.S. has not expressed its intention to contribute troops to a peacekeeping mission in CAR, Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that the U.S. is "planning to provide $40 million in assistance to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission" there. American forces recently supported Ugandan troops in an operation against Lord's Resistance Army fighters in CAR. American Special Forces have been assisting African troops in their fight against the LRA since 2011.