France - CAR

France saving Central African Republic from civil war, French minister

There is still a risk of civil war in the Central African Republic, according to French Development Minister Pascal Canfin the day after President François Hollande visited the country to salute the coffins of the first French soldiers killed in the conflict. Although shots were fired in Bangui as Hollande left, sources say that most armed groups have been disarmed in the capital.

François Hollande in front of the coffins of the two French soldiers killed in Bangui
François Hollande in front of the coffins of the two French soldiers killed in Bangui Reuters/Fred Dufour/Pool

"There's a real risk in Central Africa," Canfin told France Inter radio on Wednesday. "There was one and perhaps there still is a real risk of civil war."

Although Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for decades, "certain people" are exploiting the situation that has developed since Muslim Seleka militias took over the country, toppling president François Bozizé, Canfin said.

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Shots were heard at 11.00pm on Tuesday near the state-run television station, as Hollande left the country after paying tribute to the two French soldiers killed on Monday, but nearly all armed groups in the capital have been disarmed, according to the French General Staff.

The French intervention is "dangerous but necessary to prevent the carnage that is taking place", Hollande said.

Businesses belonging to Muslims were ransacked by mobs on Monday and Tuesday and Seleka members, now confined to their camps, complained that they now have no means of defending themselves.

Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian on Wednesday confirmed that the intervention should last six months after the head of the right-wing UMP's group in parliament, Christian Jacob, raised concerns about its duration and financing.

"I've been hearing here and there that we should be faster but we only started disarming on Monday," Le Drian told BFMTV.

Members of France's Green party, which is a junior partner in the government, called for a vote in parliament on the intervention.

"We would prefer that the parliament vote when we send our troops somewhere," Barbara Pompili, co-president of the EELV group in the National Assembly, told RFI. "The assembly will only be called on to vote if the intervention lasts more than four months. We would have preferred that the vote take place at the beginning of the intervention."

She called on the European Union to take a bigger share of the cost thatn the 50 million euros currently planned and declared the six-month target "a bit ambitious".

"It really is total chaos in the Central African Republic," she said. "A six-month intervention seems very short; the UN mission is set to last for 12 months, which seems more realistic to me."

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