European Union trains ‘credible army’ in CAR
With EU help, the Central African Republic is seeking to turn the page on years of bloodshed by retraining its army and by month’s end a first battalion is to present arms.
The European Union last year unveiled the launch of a two-year military training mission for CAR troops in the capital Bangui, along the lines of similar assistance in conflict-hit Somalia and Mali.
Some 70 instructors have been tasked with whipping the army into shape and rendering it democratically accountable following its failure to prevent a three-year civil war between mainly Muslim former rebels and mostly Christian militias, that started in 2013.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera took office a year ago to oversee the transition to peace in one of the world’s poorest nations, where the conflict has displaced about 900 000 people in a population of some 4.7 million.
Much of CAR is still lawless today, and independent UN expert Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum in February deplored that “armed groups have taken over more than 60% of the country”.
General Herman Ruys, the Belgian officer in command of the EU’s military advisor team, expects the first force of CAR troops to be ready for active service by mid-May.
“The battalion is about 700 strong, comprising three companies and the general staff,” says Ruys, who announced that two more battalions will follow, bringing the total force to around 2 000 troops.