Hollande vows French help in restive CAfrica

13th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande paid a lightning visit to the Central African Republic on Friday for talks with its new leaders on stabilising and rebuilding the restive nation, while drawing down France's military presence.

Hollande's visit to the former French colony is sensitive because of accusations that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in the country.

There are currently three investigations under way into the accusations against the French troops.

Hollande was greeted at Bangui airport by new President Faustin Archange Touadera, elected in a peaceful vote in February seen as a step toward reconciliation after years of sectarian violence.

The French leader was expected to voice "his support for peace and stabilisation" of the country, one of the poorest on the planet, said an aide.

"Today France and the Central African Republic are less and less linked by a peacekeeping role and more and more by accompanying the country in its reconstruction, getting back on its feet, and development," he said.

Hollande last visited the country in December 2013 and 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 troop[s 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.

After his brief visit of a few hours to the Central African Republic Hollande is due to travel on Friday to Nigeria for a regional summit focused on fighting the jihadist group Boko Haram.

The summit will also be attended by the United States, Britain and the three neighbouring countries which have also been the target of attacks from the jihadists -- Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people since 2009, according to World Bank figures.

© 2016 AFP

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