French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday he would lead a mini-summit with African leaders in Mali to discuss forming a new peacekeeping mission to boost security in the troubled Central African Republic.
The meeting on the sidelines of the inauguration of Malian President Ibrahmim Boubacar Keita in Bamako will bring together the heads of state of Gabon, Chad and Cameroon, the main contributors to an existing 1,100-strong regional peacekeeping force known as MICOPAX.
"The idea would be to mobilise 3,500 African men under an African mandate to stabilise the country," Hollande told reporters.
Rebel leader General Abdoulaye Miskine and his men last December joined forces with the Seleka rebel alliance that fought its way to power in the Central African Republic (CAR) in March, ousting president Francois Bozize, who had ruled for 10 years.
But in April, Miskine, the leader of the rebel Democratic Front of the Centrafrican People (FPDC), cited "differences in points of view" with the Seleka forces and broke ranks. Seleka troops then attacked the FPDC rebels and chased them into the northeast of the CAR.
Military and civilian sources have accused the Seleka forces of looting towns in their path and the new authorities in the deeply poor, landlocked nation have proved incapable of restoring order across large tracts of lawless territory, where bandits and renegade soldiers run riot.
The Seleka coalition itself, led by President Michel Djotodia, has been accused of repeated rights violations against the civilian population in the capital Bangui and in the interior of the country.
Djotodia last week ordered the disbandment of Seleka and the disarming of its members.
Police in Cameroon arrested Miskine on Monday, suspecting that he might launch cross-border raids, a source in the security forces said Thursday.
France, the former colonial power, has around 450 troops stationed at the airport in Bangui but Hollande said the 2,400 extra troops proposed to beef up the peacekeeping mission would come from voluntary contributions from the CAR's neighbours and Paris would not take part.
"This is not the same operation as in Mali. France would not intervene directly. We would provide logistical support and training," Hollande said.
"The president wants to encourage this approach, see what they need and how to bring the issue to the United Nations," a member of Hollande's entourage said.
The idea is to "enable the force to press for a resolution from the Security Council", he added. Hollande is due to attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
Hollande's entourage announced the summit as the president prepared to join leaders from across Africa at Keita's inauguration, with Mali entering a new era of democracy after months of political chaos.
© 2013 AFP
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