France likely to prolong C. African mission
PARIS (AP) — France is likely to extend its military mission in Central African Republic, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday, a day after local soldiers turned on a man in their midst and stabbed and stomped him to death.
Le Drian said on RTL radio that seeking an extension to the U.N.-mandated six-month mission was probably the best way to ensure a peaceful political transition. France has 1,600 soldiers in Central African Republic since Dec. 5.
France says the goal is “a minimum of security” but even that has been hard-won as Christian militias clash with mostly Muslim Seleka rebels.
In a statement Thursday, the defense minister firmly condemned the “act of cruelty” a day earlier when soldiers broke ranks after a formal gathering and stomped, stabbed, dragged and dismembered the man. He was suspected of being a Seleka infiltrator. Selekas overthrew the government in 2013 but have since stepped aside in favor of an interim president heading a transitional government.
“France will not tolerate any act that compromises human dignity and fundamental values it is defending through its military intervention,” Le Drian’s statement said.
The minister announced plans to visit Central African Republic in the coming days.
Six thousand African peacekeepers have also been deployed alongside the French to try to control the chaos that has enveloped the country. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France-Info radio on Tuesday that up to 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers could be there, “seemingly by summer.”
“We are going to avoid the worst,” Le Drian told RTL. “By our presence we can lower tensions on the ground, to pave the way for a peaceful political transition.”