Central African Republic Appeals for International Help as Rebels Threaten Capital
With insurgent fighters closing on the the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, the President Francois Bozize has appealed to both France and the United States to provide military support.
Neither country seems willing to step into the country’s conflict, however. The French government has said that its troops are only prepared to do what is necessary to protect French nationals, whilst the United States has closed down its embassy and evacuated staff. Regional African leaders are trying to broker a ceasefire, and claim that the rebels have temporarily suspended their advance on the capital whilst talks take place.
Rebel fighters are said to have driven to within less than 50 miles of the capital, threatening to bring down the government of President Francois Bozize, who has ruled the country for 10 years.
Despite a wealth of mineral resources including substantial deposits of uranium, gold and diamonds, the Central African Republic (CAR) has remained poverty stricken since its independence from France in 1960. The average income is barely over $2 USD per day.
The rebel SELEKA coalition are threatening to overthrow the President unless he implements a previous peace deal in full. But the President’s response was to call for support from its former colonial power. Addressing a crowd of protesters in the Capital he said:
“We are asking our cousins the French and the United States, which are major powers, to help us push back the rebels to their initial positions in a way that will permit talks in Libreville to resolve this crisis.”
Peace talks are expected to take place soon in Libreville, Gabon.
250 French soldiers are already stationed in the CAR as part of a peacekeeping mission. Paris has previously used its troops to oust leaders of to support governments in trouble. The last time this happened was in 2006, when French air strikes where used to defend President Bozize against a previous rebel advance. But this time around French President Francois Hollande has made it clear that he has no interest in ordering a military intervention.
“If we have a presence, it’s not to protect a regime, it’s to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic,” he said, adding that “Those days are over.”
With African power blocks growing in strength – such as the African Union which is already engaged in a umber of conflicts across the continent – and with western powers in serious economic trouble, it has become much more difficult for European and American leaders to justify involvement in such conflicts. Many in the Central African Republic still look to France for help, however, and a group of protesters attacked the French embassy on Wednesday over accusation that the old colonial power has ‘abandoned’ them.
Meanwhile the United States has closed its embassy. The state department says that it has bot broken off diplomatic links with the government, but has evacuated staff due to safety concerns.