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Crisis eases in Central African Republic
December 8, 2013, 10:21 pm

France deployed 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic in a bid to end militia fighting there [AP]

France deployed 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic in a bid to end militia fighting there [AP]

The level of violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) appears to have decreased as 1,600 French troops began deploying to end the fighting between Christian and Muslim militias which erupted there last week.

The UN Security Council authorised French and African troops in CAR to use all means necessary to protect civilians after intense clashes between militias left hundreds dead in the capital Bangui on Thursday.

The Red Cross said on Friday that nearly 300 bodies had been removed from the streets of the capital.

On Sunday, residents of Bangui said that sporadic gunfire could be heard on the streets and that CAR soldiers were roaming inner neighbourhoods.

Interim President Michel Djotodia, who took over the run of the country after his rebel forces known as the Seleka Coalition seized control of Bangui and deposed then President Francois Bozize, ordered all armed forces back to their barracks.

But analysts worry that he may not be in full control. Some of the Muslims factions in the Coalition were reported to have attacked Christian districts forcing the latter to form their own militias.

France said it will start disarming all fighters in CAR by force if necessary on Monday.

The current crisis in CAR – a mineral rich nation of 4.6 million people – began in December 2012 when Seleka – a rebel amalgamation of several different factions – began to move toward Bangui in hopes of removing Bozize, a military officer who seized power in 2003 and has been elected president twice since then.

Analysts say that the rebel gains underscore the instability and extreme poverty that has plagued the country since independence from Paris in 1960 despite possessing vast agricultural, water and mineral resources, including uranium, gold and diamonds. The average monthly income is around $60.

In January, a ceasefire was reached and an UN-sponsored peace process led to the formation of a unity government in which the president was allowed to remain in office till 2016, provided top ministerial positions went to members of the Seleka Coalition.

However, on March 23, the Coalition broke the national unity agreement and seized the capital Bangui. In the fighting, 13 South African peace-keeping soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded during a clash with the rebels. South Africa withdrew its forces in April, but Congo deployed nearly 200 soldiers for peacekeeping operations in CAR.

The African Union said over the weekend that it would increase its contingent of armed forces in CAR from 3,500 troops to nearly 6,000.

Source: Agencies