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Central African Republic

Published on January 6, 2014
Interview given by M. Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, to RFI (excerpts)

Paris, January 6, 2014

Q. – The Minister [Delegate] for Relations with Parliament explained a few days ago that a short extraordinary session would be convened before the local elections to decide whether to extend the military operation. Did the government, in a way, underestimate the difficulties of the operation?

THE MINISTER – It’s a month since the operation began. It’s not only a French operation, it’s an international operation under United Nations mandate…

Q. – Which France is spearheading!

THE MINISTER – France is spearheading it, but let me remind you there are more African soldiers than French soldiers on the ground. It’s obviously too early to make an assessment of a military operation, only a month after it began.

What we can say already is that if the French President hadn’t taken this decision… The country was clearly on the brink of civil war. (…) We were on the brink of a real massacre. So we made the right choice.

However, the situation is difficult. Who would deny it? No one! But if we hadn’t been there, it would clearly be worse. (…)

Q. – Nigeria has begun to repatriate more than 1,600 of its nationals from Bangui. Last week, the number of people seeking refuge around the capital’s airport doubled; it rose to about 100,000 people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The clashes reportedly claimed more than 1,000 lives last month and displaced tens of thousands of people. Isn’t it necessary today to think about a change of strategy?

THE MINISTER – I can add other figures: there are 1.5 million people in the Central African Republic whose food or health security is under threat. So yes, it’s a country that is on the brink of the abyss – that’s also why we’re there. If there are so many inhabitants of Bangui trying to get close to the airport, it’s precisely because it’s a zone made safe by the French army in particular, which is clear proof that wherever we are, wherever we can go, we do the job and people have confidence and it brings security.

Q. – Isn’t there a lack of troops then?

THE MINISTER – There are 1,000 French soldiers but soon, in a few weeks’ time, there will be 6,000 African soldiers. It isn’t our intention to be the spearhead. We’re in an international intervention, that’s our doctrine and we won’t change.

There are three pillars to our intervention and our strategy: security, democratic elections as soon as possible so that legitimate power can be restored in Bangui, and the development and humanitarian aspects. This is why we – I in particular, as Development Minister – are working flat out to ensure the Brussels conference on 20 January is a success; that’s when we’re going to mobilize the whole international community to get the necessary funds to finance humanitarian and development efforts in the Central African Republic for the next two years. (…)./.

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