, BANGUI, Feb 27 – The commander of the French forces in the Central African Republic, General Francisco Soriano, said Thursday that the country cannot “rely on the international community for everything” to enforce peace in their troubled nation.
Speaking to AFP the day after interim president Catherine Samba Panza called on French and African troops in her country to make full use of their UN mandate to sideline rogue elements creating havoc in the country, Soriano said Central Africans had to take responsibility themselves for their country’s security.
“Central Africans need to participate in the reconstruction of their own country. We already do a lot. Now, we want an internal security operation where we need to involve the Central African security forces more fully,” said Soriano.
However, he conceded it was a problem that many of those in the Central African security forces went unpaid.
“We need to work more with the police to put them back in the saddle. It is important to restore the authority of the state,” he said at a road block in the capital Bangui, organised by Central African forces with the help of French troops.
On Wednesday, Samba Panza claimed at a press conference that the escalating Christian Muslim violence in the country was “being used by people who are not interested in restoring stability”.
“I call on the MISCA (African Union force) and (French force) Sangaris to really use the mandates they have been given by UN resolutions and wipe out these unchecked elements that poison our lives,” she said.
Under UN resolution 2127, adopted in December, international forces are to restore public order and security in the former French colony.
Samba Panza’s comments came a day after French lawmakers extended their country’s military operation in the country.
French troops were sent to the CAR in early December to reinforce the 6,000 strong MISCA force.
France is pushing hard for the international forces to be transformed into an official UN peacekeeping force.
France’s President Francois Hollande may stop off in the Central African Republic on Friday, on his return from an official trip to Nigeria, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday according to press reports.
The European Union has pledged to deploy up to 1,000 troops but negotiations on which countries will provide them are continuing in Brussels.
Since December 5, a few hours before the launch of the French operation in the country, the Red Cross says it has collected 1,251 bodies from the streets of Bangui because of violence between rival armed groups from the Christian majority and Muslim minority.
Eleven bodies were discovered on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bangui, says the Red Cross.