Central African Republic
Q. – This morning you’re meeting your Central African counterpart, Toussaint Kongo-Doudou. He has begged the UN to come to his country’s aid. The deployment of 12,000 Blue Helmets would be scheduled for the autumn; isn’t autumn a bit late?
THE MINISTER – The Central African Republic, like France, would like a UN-decided peacekeeping operation to take over from the current forces, which are both French and African. Getting this has been difficult, and it’s finally on the way to being achieved. There are simply delays between the moment it’s decided and the moment the Blue Helmets are on the ground.
Q. – But it’s a race against time…
THE MINISTER – Exactly. The date set for the actual deployment on the ground is 15 September. But we’ve asked for there to be a police reinforcement between today and 15 September. The African Union has, moreover, just decided to send police.
Q. – Is it better to have anti-riot police than soldiers?
THE MINISTER – There have to be both because they don’t do the same job. The soldiers are doing – remarkably, I might add – the job they’ve been asked to do, but police are very useful for keeping law and order and preventing the communities from turning against each other.
As you’ve noted in the Central African Republic, even though this remains very complicated, wages and salaries have been paid, despite the country having been unable to pay its civil servants and pensioners for several months. We – President Hollande in particular – intervened, and the wages were paid thanks to the efforts of the African countries neighbouring the Central African Republic. From that point of view, things are a bit better, even though it’s still tough.
I want to pay tribute again to the action of the French soldiers, whom I saw not long ago, who are doing a really magnificent job.
Q. – You were talking about the gradual restoration of law and order and the state, so there has to be a police force, a justice system, there have to be elections… The budget for this operation in the CAR is estimated at between $500 million and $800 million a year. Who’s going to pay?
THE MINISTER – The United Nations. It’s one of the reasons we want the peacekeeping operation, under United Nations control, to be swiftly decided. The African Union will pay part of it. (…)
Q. – So at any rate as far as the CAR is concerned, you’re eliminating the risk of things getting bogged down. In your view, is it no longer a risk now to be taken into consideration?
THE MINISTER – We’re taking action so that things don’t get bogged down, and they won’t. At the same time, it would be an illusion to believe that everything will be over in three months; this is long-term action.
Regarding the French, they were present before the intervention, with 400 troops. There are now 2,000 troops. The United Nations will take over. We’ll leave a number of troops, of course, but then we’ll decrease our military presence. (…)./.