CAR: Hollande orders protection of French

2012-12-27 08:37
French President Francois Hollande. (File, AFP)

French President Francois Hollande. (File, AFP)

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Paris - President Francois Hollande on Wednesday ordered tightened security for French nationals in the Central African Republic after violent protests denouncing the former colonial ruler for failing to help stem a rebel offensive.

He also called for the protection of the French embassy in the capital Bangui, which was attacked by protesters who tore down the French flag, Hollande's office said in a statement.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the French mission had been "secured and order re-established".

Around 1 200 French nationals live in the mineral-rich but dirt poor country, which has been ravaged by political instability and misrule since independence in 1960.

Meanwhile, the United States expressed "deep concern" on Wednesday about fighting in the African republic, warning all Americans to leave the country and urging Bangui to protect the US embassy.

Reinforced security

"The embassy issued an emergency message to all US citizens in the CAR strongly encouraging them to take advantage of commercial flights to depart the CAR until the security situation improved," the State Department said.

Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said the ambassador had "authorised the departure of family members and non-emergency personnel from our Embassy in Bangui as a result of increased rebel activity in the north central part of the country".

"We are working with the American community in Bangui to facilitate the departure of those US citizens seeking to depart the country. We are monitoring the situation closely," he added.

"We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic."

France has reinforced security at its embassy in Bangui as hundreds of demonstrators close to the embattled president turned on the former colonial power, demanding that it intervene to halt the rebel advance.

Civilians hesitant to return

"We urgently call on the government of the Central African Republic to fulfil its responsibilities to protect diplomatic missions and US citizens currently in the country," the spokesperson warned.

The Seleka coalition is made up of rebels who say the government has not honoured peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011 that offered financial support and other help for insurgents who laid down their arms.

Aid groups said, while there are as yet few serious consequences from the rebel offensive, civilians who fled the fighting were hesitant to return home.

"We call on the rebel alliance to cease hostilities and movements towards the capital," Ventrell said, welcoming efforts by the CEEAC regional body to sponsor peace talks.

"We call on all parties to participate and use this opportunity to negotiate a comprehensive political resolution to the long-standing problems in the implementation of the 2008 peace agreement," he said.

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