The State in the Central African Republic has collapsed. The country is under authority of gangs, thugs, who are raping, plundering and killing.
In the beginning Muslims were targeting Christians. So Christians created militias and now they are targeting Muslims because they are Muslims. We know where this situation could go: to a sectarian civil war between Christians and Muslims. So we have to rush to restore a modicum of peace and security in the country.
An African Force of 4,000 soldiers is arriving. France will have 1,200 soldiers. In the first place, we are going to restore law and order in Bangui. After that we will secure the roads to the main population centers. In front of us, we are not facing terrorists or real armed groups, but rather thugs. I don’t think they are going to make a great fight against us.
Q: How do you respond to those who are alarmed to what is an open-ended nature of this French response
It is an open-ended commitment of the international community because first we have to restore law and order. Secondly, we have to support a constitutional process with elections before February 2015. But after that, we have to rebuild the State. I think it will be a long term commitment of the European Union, the UN and the African Union.
Q : The Central African Republic has been described as instable at best for most of its time since independence in 1966. This spiral of sectarianism and hatred is very dangerous, how do you avoid these militia groups or thugs not to go on this religious line and creating what could be an even worse situation? Because this could be very bad, couldn’t it?
It may be very bad indeed. We are on the brink of mass atrocities. So let’s rush with the African Force and the French Forces. We have also to rebuild a Central African army. So there is an emergency. And in the same time we know that it is a long term endeavor.
Q: How do you address up France is going to be accused of sending its troops to police a former colony, like the paternalism in the 1970’s? This is not the neutral peacekeeping the President has promised, nor was the intervention in Libya in 2011, nor was the intervention in Mali in 2012. What makes this different?
In the Central African Republic nobody can accuse us of having any economic interest. It is simply that the French public opinion knows the Central African Republic because of our historical links. It’s not the same in the US or the UK where it’s not on the front page of newspapers. So there is a normal reaction of the French public opinion, of the French NGOs who are pressuring our government to act. That is the reason why we are going to Central African Republic. It is a humanitarian intervention.
Q : You must be disappointed it has taken so long, the French have been calling for action from the UN for so time .
As I said, it is a bit a forgotten crisis in an ignored country. We had to convince our partners that we had to go for humanitarian reasons. But also if the Central African Republic was becoming a failed State in the center of Africa, it could become quite dangerous.
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