Central African Republic
Q. – Concerning the Central African Republic, the violence between Christians and Muslims continues. What’s more, French soldiers had to return fire on Thursday evening in a Muslim district of Bangui. Seven attackers were killed by the French army. In these circumstances, has the French army still got a long time to go in the Central African Republic?
THE MINISTER – In the Central African Republic, there’s both bad and good news. Let’s start with the good. Europe has agreed to send a certain amount of military support there.
Q. – Very suddenly and very slowly.
THE MINISTER – But it’s better than nothing. And the UN has agreed, at the request of France and the Central African Republic, to take the decision to launch a “peacekeeping” operation. Nearly 12,000 soldiers are going to be dispatched there in September. This is crucial, because if there’s no security, nothing is possible.
On the other hand, the situation remains very tough. Admittedly, we’ve avoided what will have to be called a genocide, but tensions remain very high between Christians on one side and Muslims on the other. Other aspects must of course be taken into consideration. The troops, both French and African, are playing an important role separating the fighters, or belligerents, but it’s still very tough.
There’s also a significant humanitarian problem and the President, Ms Samba-Panza, is coping extremely courageously. It will take a long time and be complicated, but it must be clearly understood that if there wasn’t this process to restore security, tens and tens of thousands of lives would risk being threatened.
Q. – But here too, is the political solution still to come?
THE MINISTER – Of course, there are always three sides to the triangle: 1) security; 2) democracy; 3) development. If you haven’t got security, you can’t have democracy. If you haven’t got democracy, you won’t be able to ensure security and development over the long term. France’s position is to try and support the three sides of the triangle.
Q. – So, we were talking about European solidarity on the matter in the Central African Republic. All the same, we get the impression that France isn’t managing – or is at any rate finding it difficult – to convince its allies, its European partners.
THE MINISTER – We’re trying to convince our partners. We often manage to, but not always. But it isn’t simply Africa which is at stake; we are. When we talk about Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and Tunisia, these countries aren’t far from Europe. In each case the situation is different, but I sometimes say to my colleagues that if you don’t act out of solidarity, act at least out of selfishness because you’re affected all the same. We French are saying: Africa is near and we’re at its side, Africans are our partners and we have to help them.
Q. – Are they starting to get the message?
THE MINISTER – The Europeans and Africans wholeheartedly agree.
You observed that France’s interventions have been generally very well received. Some European partners would like to concentrate more on the East. We have to concentrate on everything. We were of course talking about Ukraine, we have to concentrate on the Eastern European countries but [also those in] the south, the Euro-Mediterranean area, the Euro-African area. This is essential, and we also have to bear in mind that it isn’t simply out of generosity [that we act]. Africa is a magnificent continent which is going to develop in a remarkable way and we must help it to do so. (…)./.