France, EU to send hundreds more troops to Central African Republic
By Clare Byrne and Emoke Bebiak | Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg, Germany) | Published: February 14, 2014
France will send an additional 400 troops to the Central African Republic, while the European Union pledged Friday to double its previous commitment of 500 troops.
The moves follow calls from the United Nations to help combat sectarian violence in the country.
French President Francois Hollande "has decided to respond by temporarily increasing the number of French troops in the Central African Republic to 2,000," the French presidency said Friday.
Hollande also appealed to other countries to show "increased solidarity" with CAR, as well as repeating his call for the UN Security Council to speed up the deployment of a peace-keeping mission.
France currently has 1,600 troops in CAR, with the soldiers supporting some 6,000 African Union peace-keepers on the ground, however, the combined forces have failed thus far to stem the protracted violence between Christian and Muslim communities.
After talking to the Security Council in New York, European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the European Union has agreed to double its previous commitment of 500 troops.
"We have more than 500 troops," Ashton said. "The force generation conference, which has met and discussed the numbers of troops ... is looking at double that number."
Addressing the Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appealed to member states for sending additional military forces and said he would present recommendations to the council Tuesday on how to contain and end the crisis.
"I am committed to do everything in my power to prevent further atrocities and reduce the risk of de facto partition of the country," Ban said. "I am duty-bound to bring to the council’s attention my best possible advice on how to address threats to international peace and security."
UN humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos is set to visit CAR Tuesday to assess the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
The ongoing violence has displaced an estimated 714,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In the past two months, 37 children were killed and 96 children were maimed, the UN Children's Fund said Friday.
The World Health Organization also warned that most health workers have fled after hospitals were damaged and looted.