French troops arrived to a hero’s welcome in the Central African Republic, as France announced that 1,600 soldiers will be deployed to keep the peace alongside the African Union forces. But the cheers mask the fear of a nation on the brink.
Religious violence continues to claim lives. The Red Cross announced that at least 400 bodies have been collected in the capital Bangui since Thursday.
French President François Hollande, working under a UN-backed mission to stem the tide of religious violence, called into question the interim president’s role.
“We must disarm the armed groups, restore stability, and at the appropriate time, enable the country to hold free and fair elections,” said Hollande, addressing the Africa-France summit in Paris.
The country has been plunged into violence since the president was ousted in March by the Muslim Seleka rebel group. Fearing for their lives, 10 percent of the population have fled their homes often taking refuge in churches. At the Catholic Mission in Bangui, Father Evitas, Don Bosco spoke of the rising humanitarian crisis.
“(It) causes a sanitary problem, as we do not have the infrastructure for this. We have a problem with toilets – we don’t have any. Then there’s the health problem, we don’t have any medicine.”
The UN estimates half of the population need humanitarian aid and some are saying the country is on the brink of genocide, putting the pressure on the international community to act.