France to withdraw troops from CAR

French defence minister says his country's military intervention in Central African Republic will end this year

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

French soldiers part of Operation Sangaris, launched in 2013 and due to end this year, pictured in Bangui in September 2015.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday that France will end its military intervention in the Central African Republic this year.

Le Drian said in the country's capital Bangui that as France had achieved its objectives of restoring security to the country after three years of communal violence, "I can confirm to you the end of Operation Sangaris during the course of 2016."

France deployed hundreds of troops to the Central African Republic in December 2013 as violence erupted after the Seleka rebels came to power after overthrowing President Francois Bozize.

Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was pressured into resigning by regional leaders in 2014. Shortly after, the National Transitional Council elected Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president.

Thousands of Central Africans have died and hundreds of thousands have been forced to leave their homes since 2013.

"In the space of two years, the Sangaris force restored calm and prevented the unacceptable" Le Drian said. "Of course everything is not resolved but we can finally see the country emerging from a long period of trouble and uncertainty," he added.

French Defender Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends the fifth Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference in Doha on March 29, 2016.

Around 2,500 French troops were deployed and this number has been reduced to about 900, supporting around 10,000 UN peacekeepers. Three hundred French troops will remain after the withdrawal.

Some French units will also continue to provide security at the airport, and some troops based in Ivory Coast and in the Sahel region will be "ready to rapidly intervene" if necessary.

The exact date the troops will be withdrawn by has not been indicated by Le Drian but he said it will be in parallel with the buildup of the 12,000-strong UN force, MINUSCA, and the European Union’s training mission (EUTM RCA).

TRTWorld and agencies