President marking 100 days in office: CAR still in danger

2016-07-10 19:11
Faustin-Archange Touadera (Sia Kambou, AFP)

Faustin-Archange Touadera (Sia Kambou, AFP)

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Bangui - The Central African Republic remains in danger, with entire regions controlled by armed groups, President Faustin-Archange Touadera warned on Sunday as he marked 100 days since his election.

Touadera was elected in a peaceful vote in February seen as a step toward reconciliation after years of sectarian violence, helped by a 12 000-strong UN force, but while drawing down France's military presence.

He took office in March, but the long-restive country has seen a resurgence of violence since mid-June.

"The country is in danger. We have to save it by all legal means ... As I speak, entire regions of the country have become sanctuaries for armed groups," said the former maths teacher.

"The international community is tired of bearing responsibility for our political mistakes," he said, while hailing help from countries including France, Italy, the United States as well as that from the UN, the European Union, the African Union and others.

Touadera, who still teaches at the University of Bangui, called for "a total lifting of the embargo on the diamond trade", which he said had "deprived the country of enormous resources and encouraged illicit trafficking".

Challenges facing Touadera include disarming armed groups, rebuilding the army, helping over 300 000 refugees in Cameroon and Chad, as well as 415 000 people internally displaced inside the country, which has a population of about 4.5 million.

French President Francois Hollande visited the country in May, his first trip since February 2014 when France's Sangaris military operation had just been deployed to help quell inter-communal violence.

The operation is due to end in December, after a progressive draw-down. From a peak of 2 000 troops at the height of the crisis, their number is down to 650, a French aide said. In due course the remaining French forces will join the UN's Minusca peacekeeping operation.

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