The resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council on Thursday allows France to send hundreds more troops for a temporary period. Speaking from the Elysee Palace in Paris, Hollande said the 600 troops already in the country would be doubled “within a few days, even a few hours” to around 1,200.
The U.N. measure also authorizes the deployment of an African Union-led force to Central African Republic for a year to protect civilians and restore public order. The AU force is replacing a regional peacekeeping mission whose presence has been mainly limited to the capital and a few northern cities.
“It’s necessary to intervene very quickly to establish order in this country, in order that humanitarian aid arrives and to avoid an actual civil war based on religion,” said France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, speaking on French RTL radio Thursday.
Central African Republic, a desperately poor country in the heart of Africa where the life expectancy is a mere 48 years, has been roiled by rebellions and coups for decades. The president ousted in March had himself ascended to power by force a decade earlier.
Djotodia, the country’s current ruler, who is Muslim, managed to unify several rebel groups in the country’s mostly Muslim north, where resentment of the federal government and a sense of disenfranchisement has been rife for years. Once those rebels — known as Seleka, the local word for coalition — were unleashed upon the capital, though, he wielded very little control over the mélange 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 self-defense militias. Thursday’s attack demonstrates that these fighters are more than vengeance-seeking civilians with artisanal hunting rifles.