France intervenes to quell violence in Central African Republic
The UN-sanctioned military operation will put 1,200 troops on the ground by the weekend, and follows months of clashes in the increasingly unstable country.
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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.
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The operation started hours after the United Nations Security Council approved a French-sponsored resolution allowing for the use of military force to subdue ethnic violence in the landlocked African nation, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio France Internationale, according to the Associated Press.
At least 50 people were killed Thursday in fighting in the capital city of Bangui between rebels now running the country –the majority of whom are Muslim - and opposition groups who are mainly Christian, according to The Wall Street Journal. This follows months of growing clashes and lawlessness after rebel groups toppled former president François Bozizé in April.
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France, which already has about 600 troops on the ground, plans on doubling its forces to 1,200 troops by this weekend. The UN resolution also approved the use of forces from MISCA, an African multinational force.
“Today, France is called upon to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” French President François Hollande said in a television address Thursday.
France had been considering increasing the number of its troops in the Central African Republic since at least late November, when The Christian Science Monitor reported that France planned on tripling its forces in the nation.
Tension in the Central African Republic has been building for years, as the Monitor explained in November:
For years the government has been challenged by a hodgepodge of three rebel factions called Séléka that have independently been in revolt. The Séléka alliance was born from the frustration in the majority Muslim north of being marginalized by a Christian-dominated government that failed to deliver on promises of development.