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French military operation in the Central African Republic.

 

Alejandro Ronard Alem - Journalist, Editor and Representative of GSS in France

Alejandro Ronard Alem – Contributor Editor and Associate Director ESN Representative in France

By Alejandro Ronard Alem.-  The French military operation in CAR (Central African Republic) enters a second phase looking to disarm the Islamic militias Sélékan (1) and also the self-defense militias of Christian origin.

But the situation is not simple since Seleka is composed partly of mercenaries from Chad and Sudan, that are beyond the control of the state central power.

Despite the governmental decree of “de facto“ CAR President Michel Djotodia calling upon the surrender of all rebel weapons, the militias are beyond Djotodia´s control and they only obey local warlords.

They are the same Sélékamilitias that are acting autonomously and have committed killings, rape, looting, terrorizing entire populations forced to flee to the borders.

It is estimated that from a population of 4 million, already 500,000 people have been displaced.

The humanitarian crisis, pressure and fear of destabilizing neighboring countries where France has major interests (Cameroon, Congo, Chad …..),  was the determining factor of the current operation Sangaris”.

It is a French military operation that started while waiting for the arrival of six thousand (6000) UN peacekeepers.  Peace keeping force that can only be deployed during next six months.

European Security News.- Journalist Alejandro Ronard Alem affirms that "according to French government this operation "Sangaris" , whose name reminds of  a red butterfly typical of the central-african forests (Cymothoe-sangaris), is not meant to be an intervention originated in any ideology nor religion."

European Security News.- Journalist Alejandro Ronard Alem affirms that “according to French government this operation “Sangaris” , whose name reminds of a red butterfly typical of the central-african forests (Cymothoe-sangaris), is not meant to be an intervention originated in any ideology nor religion.”

According to the French Minister of DefenseJean-Yves Le Drian, the Operation Sangaris” (name chosen by the CPCO – Center for planning and conducting of operations), will be a “timely and specificmission that will last 6 months and in which the mission of the 1600 French soldiers will be to assist African Forces of MISCA (Mission International Support Central African Republic -CAR-  to stabilize the country and stop the massacres.

Recent history of CAR show the following important dates:

1) in March 2003 Francois Bozizé gives a coup détat against President Ange-Félix Patassé (2).  Years after the coup, a peace agreement signed in 2008, unsuccessfully sought to bring together the government and the rebel groups of UFDR   (Union of Democratic Forces for Unity)and APRD (People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy),

2) January 23rd of 2011, when Francois Bozizé is reelected President with over 64% of votes,

3) December 2012, which is when the Seleka coalition, that brings together Islamic dissidents of UDFR and CPJP (Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace), resume the armed struggle,

4) the rest of the story starts in March 2013 when the Seleka rebels attacked the Government Palace, and as a consequence of it, President Bozizé exiles in Cameroon,

5) finally, in August 18th 2013, when Michel Djotodia  installed himself as president of the CAR and announces the call for elections within the next 18 months. But the transition period begins with the many atrocities committed by the Seleka armed gangs.

In a country with 80% of the population of Christian origin and only 10% of Muslim origin, it is clear that Seleka also received the support of armed elements that came from neighboring countries.

Today warlords of Seleka installed in the headquarters of the armed forces at Camp le Roux in Bangui, where from Michel Djotodia wants to rule, are a praetorian guard that is acting to keep and avoid any surrender of weapons.

On the other hand the French have been prudent at the beginning of this military operation by ordering all required international guarantees from United Nations - UN), the European Community and the African Union OAU. This French prudence is to avoid international criticism, because the 1979 intervention in the Central African Republic, when French paratroopers overthrew former “Kaiser” Bokassa I , is still present in the memories of all as a turbid time in Franco-African relations.

European Security News.- President F. Hollande reviewing the troops on July 14th, accompanied by Prime Minister Ayrault and Secretary of Defense Le Drian. Photo Credit  AFP BENOIT TESSIER

European Security News.- President F. Hollande reviewing the troops on July 14th, accompanied by Prime Minister Ayrault and Secretary of Defense Le Drian. Photo Credit AFP BENOIT TESSIER

From the very beginning, French President Francois Hollande and his Secretary of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian have spoken of a humanitarian operation to stop the massacres and to strengthen security in order to prevent the emergence of an area where terrorism can be installed.

And in a time of economic crisis, to the French people , who prepare their year-end holidays, this intervention is less followed by mass media and public opinion that what was recent Operation Serval” in Mali.

The estimated figures of the “Sangaris” operation in CAR are of a lower order than that of Mali, as is thought to cost between 100 and 300 million euros. In this regard the Ministry of Defense said it was planned to spend up to 450 million Euros and if cost exceeds what is already projected, then, any further spending will be deducted from the official military budget.

This forecast of lower cost in comparison to the conflict in Mali is based on the non-use of air strikes, that are very expensive.

At the political level, in France, the well known “sacred” union around the country’s foreign policy, that is the fact that foreign policy is supportedmonolithically  by all French State,  is expressed again and the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault informs the various political parties on the development of events.

Since the start of Sangaris,  the language of the French President has changed. Now, President Hollande is demanding the resignation of Michel Djotodia. According to the French leader, he specifically raised the issue that CAR´s Djotodia can not continue having done nothing to stop the massacres and –on the contrary-  instead left them act without any restrictions”.

That is why, disarmament operations will become increasingly more difficult, even with the people collaborating actively with the French troops, because militias are hiding their weapons, waiting the storm will be over, and then striking again from hidden underground.

After Francois Hollande participated in the World Tribute made ​​to Nelson Mandela in South Africa, he stopped in Bangui, capital of the CAR, in a decision made after the death of two French soldiers as a result of a clash with rebel elements.

And this operation “Sangaris” , whose name reminds of  a red butterfly typical of the central-african forests, is not meant to be an intervention originated in any ideology nor religion.

With the death of the two French soldiers, is is clear that Sangaris” enters into a different type of conflict, in which the various international actors are trying to make Djotodia to understand that disarmament and claudication of the Seleka militias are the essential condition to avoid a blood bath.

Various media reports are showing that the situation on the ground caused by military operations is increasingly tense, and that the various governments mobilize to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the release of $ 60 million in additional military aid to the operation of foreign forces in the CAR. All of which makes the U.S. contribution in this operation a total of $ 100 million.

In a memorandum, President Obama ordered U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to send Defense material and give logistical support to France and the African Union.

Later,  French Prime Minister acknowledged the limits of European Defense Policy , ensuring that in the CAR , they are trying to build multinational intervention forces with the participation of the Netherlands, Belgium, England and in the logistics Germany.

Finally French PM Ayrault said that “France does not ask anyone to take decisions and responsibilities that are solely responsibility of the French, but at least the existence of a common strategy, a global vision, a global organization.”

Affirming in relation to the European Defense, Prime Minister Ayrault said that “acting together ,we would have to move forward on issues such as air transport of troops, air refueling, and financing of the drones.”

“In this sense, we have advanced timidly but are far from what it is needed. This is not sufficient.
These points will be on the Agenda of the next Council Meeting in Brussels” emphasized the French Prime Minister.

How to will the French public opinion react to the latest events of this intervention?
Whatever happens, the French government continues to declare that as in Mali, in the CAR the solution is political, not military.

 (1)  Séléka (also called the Séléka CPSK-CPJP-UFDR) is an alliance of militias in the Central African Republic that overthrew the government on March 24, 2013. Séléka´s leader Michel Djotodia has claimed himself as President of the Central African Republic. Nearly all the members of Séléka are Muslim.

(2)   Ange-Félix Patassé , Politician.  Patassé was a Central African politician who was President of the Central African Republic from 1993 until 2003, when he was deposed by the rebel leader François Bozizé. Born inJanuary 25, 1937,in Paoua CAR, died in Aprill 5, 2011,in Douala, Cameroon. His Party was the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People.