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French president to visit Central Africa Tuesday

French President Francois Hollande will later on Tuesday fly into Central African Republic, where Paris has sent troops to quell sectarian violence, a source said.

“The president will stop in Bangui when he leaves South Africa tonight” after attending a memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela, a source with the French presidency told AFP on condition of anonymity shortly before Hollande was due to arrive in Johannesburg.

France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to its notoriously unstable former colony, a resource-rich but impoverished majority Christian nation that was plunged into chaos after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup.

What started as rebel looting of villages and towns has degenerated into attacks between Muslim and Christian militias with senior UN, US and French officials warning of a risk of genocide if the violence went unchecked.

The French troops are part of a UN-mandated effort to restore order, with the African Union also due to beef up an existing peacekeeping mission to 6,000 men.