BANGUI, March 11, 2008 – Hundreds of French troops deployed in the
northeast of the Central African Republic have been placed under the command
of a wider European Union force, officials said Monday.
The 220 French soldiers, who have been deployed in the Birao region since
2003, will be placed under the command of the EUFOR force which operates in
the CAR and Chad, a French military source in Bangui told AFP.
As part of a ceremony that took place in the region Saturday, the soldiers
removed their badges and replaced them with those of EUFOR Chad-CAR.
The French detachment becomes the first under EUFOR command to be deployed in CAR and consists of infantry, military engineering and hospital units.
The detachment will be "quickly reinforced by other European units," said
EU spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Poulain.
Along with the other European forces, the multinational Birao detachment
will be under the command of French general Jean-Philippe Ganascia and be run from Abeche in eastern Chad.
The EUFOR forces will largely be deployed in eastern Chad and are set to
consist of 3,700 individuals — 2,100 of whom will be French forces — by June.
Launched at the end of January, EUFOR has been hampered for several months by difficult EU negotiations as well as a failed rebel attack on the Chadian capital Ndjamena at the beginning of February.
EUFOR’s mandate is to protect an estimated 450,000 displaced people from
eastern Chad and northwestern CAR and Sudanese refugees who have fled the civil war in neighbouring Darfur.