Central African Republic/Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa
Q. – You’ve said the French intervention in the Central African Republic will be swift and isn’t set to last. Your Defence Minister is talking of six months; some people already doubt that. Does six months, a year seem to you yourself a reasonable timeframe? Is longer more feasible? Is there a limit? Secondly, are the French forces set to be deployed throughout the Central African Republic? And if so – and this is my third point – will 1,200 troops be enough? Will France have to deploy more of them? Is that possible? Acts of brutality are taking place at this very moment.
THE PRESIDENT – The only question that needs to be asked, the only one I’ve asked myself, is whether to intervene or not, whether to let the massacres be perpetrated or stop them, whether to watch women and children being raped or absolutely put an end to this carnage. Once the Security Council – and I thank the Secretary-General for it – was able, in a short time and after I sounded the alarm at the United Nations General Assembly in September, to get a resolution passed – Resolution 2127, which gives an African force a mandate to stop those who were engaging in these kinds of brutalities, restore security and protect the population – then yes, on Thursday evening I decided that France would support the African force.
On Thursday evening there were 600 French soldiers, on Friday evening there were 1,000, on Saturday evening there will be 1,600, and these will be the troop numbers that will remain as long as is necessary for this mission. You asked me how long. The force will be deployed as quickly as possible and wherever there’s a risk for the population, along with the African forces who are present – they number 2,500 soldiers. In a short time, I believe, we’ll be able to put an end to all the brutalities and massacres. According to my information, there are few of them today, whereas on Thursday alone the figures were frightening, because there were reportedly 300 deaths.
The second phase of the mission will be to disarm all the militias, all the groups terrorizing the population. And the third phase of the mission will enable the Central African authorities – my greetings here to the Prime Minister – to regain control of the territory and ensure the people are defended. And we won’t stop there, even if there isn’t a need for so many forces to be deployed: there too, as in Mali, it’ll be about concluding the operation through the holding of elections.
To make a comparison – and it deserves to be taken with great caution –, in Mali it was about combating a terrorist offensive by particularly well-armed, well-trained groups who were already occupying a territory.
In the space of a few months – and I mean a few months – we drove back that offensive, defeated it and enabled Mali to regain its territorial integrity and get its people to vote in the presidential election – it was in July –, and a second round of voting, for the general election, will take place on 15 December.
The French army troops, like the African forces’ troops, incidentally, will have to adapt to this new situation, and I’ve said there will be a reduction throughout the coming months. So! In the Central African Republic, we must strike hard straight away. That’s why, in the space of two days – and I want to pay tribute to the soldiers and the organization under the leadership of the Defence Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff –, there were 1,600 troops, and this is already giving Central Africans some breathing space.
I heard that our troops have once again been welcomed into villages and towns with jubilation by the Central Africans, as the Malians did previously. We’re regarded as the ones who can provide peace and security. So [it’s] an operation which will be swift and effective but which will have to go all the way with the Africans, prevent the groups possessing weapons from being able to use them, restore stability and, when the time comes, make free, pluralist elections possible in the country. (…)
Because I’m talking about the Central African Republic, the only question I was afraid of being asked wasn’t, “Why has France intervened?” – I had the answer to that one; it [the question] was, “Why did France risk intervening so late?” Because if we hadn’t intervened in the evening of the day before yesterday, there would have been further massacres, there would have been more women raped, more children would have been killed and acts of brutality would have been perpetrated in hospitals, as has occurred. (…)./.