France to withdraw from CAR
The news was announced by the French Defence Minister Jean – Yves Le Drian during his visit in Bangui. Operation Sangaris, launched by France in December 2013 in response to the UN resolution 2127 (5 December 2013), will end in 2016. “We can finally see the country emerging by a long period of trouble and uncertainty”, the minister said. In two years, the mission was able to restore stability in the country, thus fulfilling its objectives. Perhaps this is the reason behind French decision to withdraw its contingents.
Disorder in CAR began in March 2013, when a Muslim rebel movement, known as Seleka, overthrew the government of the Christian president Francois Bozize, replacing him with their leader Michel Djotodia. The Djotodia government remained in office for 10 months: at that period, the ethnic violence between the Muslim minority and the Christian majority spread out in the country, thus causing the death of thousands of people.
The international community reacted unanimously and approved the above resolution. This resolution not only condemned the spiral of ethnic and religious violence fueled by rebel groups, but also authorized the deployment of MISCA mission (Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine). This mission authorized French forces to take all necessary measures -in respect of the mandate- to achieve the three main objectives of the mission: disarmament of armed groups, restoration of civil authority and support in the preparation of the elections.
Begun with 1,600 soldiers, Operation Sangaris had around 2,500 men deployed at its peak. The Djotodia government proved to be unable to keep rebels -who had brought him to power- under control, thus dragging the country into a civil war. The situation improved after the resignation of the President and the appointment of a transitional government led by Catherine Samba-Panza, the first woman president of the country. Improvements in CAR security contest induced the French government to reduce the forces gradually, while continuing supporting the international mission.
Today, France has 900 units deployed in the Central African Republic. Minister Le Drian stressed that 300 soldiers will remain there even after the end of Operation. These troops will support the UN mission MINUSCA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) and will participate in the training mission led by the European Union (EUTM RCA). Some units will provide security at the airport; others will be based in Ivory Coast and in the Sahel region ready to intervene if necessary.
As Le Drian refers, in fact, the security environment in the country has significantly improved, but there are still problems to be solved. The disarmament of rebel movements and the creation of a legitimate and efficient army are the major challenges that the newly elected President Faustine Archange Touadera will face. This explains the permanence of international missions and French forces. As it is known, indeed, France cares about the relations with the territories once belonging to its colonial empire and has repeatedly helped in internal crisis by sending its armed forces.
The withdrawal from Bangui is not a surprise. From the beginning, French mission was supposed to be a temporary mission and over the years, France has tried to decrease- when conditions made it possible- its military presence on the ground. However, ensuring the continued presence of some units in the future once again emphasizes French commitment abroad -a clear sign that, despite the international situation and the threats to the country, France defends its values of free nation and his influential position in the former colonial empire.