France is to increase its military presence in the Central African Republic after warnings the country is descending into chaos and at risk of genocide.
If the UN gives the go-ahead next week, France will boost its number of soldiers from 400 to at least 1000.
French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, described the situation: “The Central African Republic is in a very serious condition. It’s in collapse and we cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is abuse, massacres and the humanitarian chaos that follows a collapse.”
The landlocked nation, which is one of the poorest in the world, has been in crisis since rebels, many from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted the president in March.
The violence is between Christian militias and the Seleka rebels who are mainly Muslim. Human Rights groups accuse the rebels of atrocities including killings, rapes and conscription of child soldiers.
The Central African Republic representative at the UN, Mesmin Dembassa Worogagoi, said: “The report by the Secretary-General, with the latest developments and positions adopted by the French and Americans, refers to pre-genocide if nothing is done.”
French troops will work alongside a 2,500 strong regional force already there. The African Union is due to take over the regional force and bring in more soldiers next month.
The French government says it expects the intervention to last about six months.