• France's news in English
 

French troops go from heroes to villains in CAR

Published: 05 Jun 2014 15:07 GMT+02:00

France launched Operation Sangaris in its former colony in December to stop the violence that exploded after a March 2013 coup by the mainly Muslim rebels of the Seleka alliance in the majority-Christian country.

Civilians cheered the arrival of the French troops after enduring massacres by rogue Seleka fighters and then revenge killings targeting Muslim civilians that left the streets of the capital Bangui strewn with corpses.

But six months on, the landlocked African nation remains the scene of deadly clashes and its people are turning against their former heroes for failing to disarm rival sides.

Hostility towards the soldiers has been brewing for weeks in the former French colony. It peaked on May 28th when 17 people were massacred at a Bangui church and 27 were abducted, according to the United Nations, with no intervention by peacekeeping forces.

French troops were booed by residents over the weekend in Miskine, a Christian neighbourhood of Bangui near a Muslim one. In Muslim districts chants of "No to France!" and anti-French insults are now commonly heard.

"When they arrived, we had hope that they were going to disarm the country," said Noel Ngoulo, secretary general of Bangui University.

"But as time has gone on, the population noticed that the disarmament was delayed. People are angry at the French because they have the impression that the mission objective has changed, from a mission of disarmament to one of simple intervention."

'Manipulation by radicals'

Following a first phase of operations in Bangui, French forces secured the route linking the capital to the Cameroonian border, which is an essential supply corridor. In the east, they now operate in Bambari region, a "friction zone" where ex-Seleka members have set up a new general staff headquarters.

French special forces have been operational for the past few days in northern territory controlled by Seleka fighters from the flashpoint town of Ndele.

The French soldiers have tried to ensure their neutrality amid the near total exodus of the Muslim population from Bangui and other main towns, but Christian and Muslim militias each accuse France of aiding the other side.

In the Muslim neighbourhood of PK-5 in Bangui, "when the French arrived there was fear," said Oumarou, a physics professor, arguing that the military presence provoked "the anti-balaka ... to launch attacks."

French military spokesman Gilles Jaron blamed rising anti-French sentiment on "manipulation by radical elements who want to turn the population against French soldiers."

General Dominique Trinquand, a former head of France's military mission to the United Nations, said that the "asymmetrical nature of combat" made the task of peacekeepers "very difficult", since roving gangs armed with machetes were up against troops in armoured vehicles.

Apart from sporadic peaks of violence, "we reached a certain level of use for military force," Jaron declared. "Now we have to establish the economic and political foundations" in a country with a barely functioning state and a ruined economy.

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

AFP/The Local (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Strasbourg will remain EU capital, France vows
Members of the European Parliament are forced to decamp every month from Brussels to Strasbourg for voting sessions. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

Strasbourg will remain EU capital, France vows

France would never allow Strasbourg to be stripped of its status as a European capital, President Francois Hollande said on Sunday, despite the huge cost of shuttling EU politicians there from Brussels each month. READ  

Ligue 1 Round-up
Lyon peg back PSG in Ligue 1 title fight
Lyon players celebrate a goal in their victory over Reims that puts them back on top of Ligue 1. Photo: AFP

Lyon peg back PSG in Ligue 1 title fight

Lyon were back on top of Ligue 1 on Sunday after a convincing win over Reims, meaning the club are level on points with PSG, who put Lille to the sword on Saturday. Here's a round-up of weekend the action from Ligue 1. READ  

Nepal Earthquake
Hundreds of French still missing in Nepal
Survivors of the Nepal earthquake sit in the street in front of their destroyed homes. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of French still missing in Nepal

As the death toll from the devastating Nepal earthquake rises beyond 3,200, authorities in Paris said on Monday they are still trying to make contact with nearly 700 French nationals believed to have been in the country at the time of the disaster. READ  

No Euro hangover as PSG hit Lille for six
Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

No Euro hangover as PSG hit Lille for six

Paris Saint-Germain quickly got back on track after their Champions League loss to Barcelona as Ezequiel Lavezzi netted a hat-trick in a resounding 6-1 win over Lille at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. READ  

French tip leads to massive UK cocaine haul
Photo: Abby Gadd/MOD

French tip leads to massive UK cocaine haul

Over two tonnes of cocaine were seized off the coast of Scotland on Sunday in an operation involving French and British officials. READ  

French icon Juliette Greco begins final tour
Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

French icon Juliette Greco begins final tour

As she embarks on the last tour of a more than six-decade career that began in post-war Paris, iconic French singer Juliette Greco had some parting advice for young performers: "Learn to say no." READ  

France opens probe into Qatar forced labour
Vinci and its QDVC subsidiary are facing a suit alleging forced labour in Qatar. Photo: AFP

France opens probe into Qatar forced labour

French prosecutors said Saturday they had opened a preliminary probe into a lobby group's claims that construction giant Vinci is using forced labour on building projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. READ  

Foiled Paris Church Attack
Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges
The suspect is still being treated in a hospital in Paris. Photo: AFP

Thwarted French jihadist faces terror charges

An Algerian jihadist sympathiser arrested in connection with a thwarted attack on a church in France was charged with terror-related murder Friday after five days of police questioning. READ  

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'
The "Triman" recycling logo next to trash containers in Paris. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

French recycling rates slammed as 'disastrous'

Less than a quarter of household waste in France is recycled according to a report this week, a statistic that a French consumer watchdog has described as “disastrous” and well below that of the country's European neighbours. READ  

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande arrive into the Genocide memorial, on April 24, 2015 in Yerevan. Photo: AFP

Putin calls on Hollande to mend ties to help trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his French counterpart François Hollande to restore ties that have been undermined by tension over Ukraine. For his part Hollande told Puting to ensure there the peace accords were implemented. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to disguise the fact you are clearly not French
France desperately hunts for church terror plot accomplices
Can France really protect 4,500 churches around the country?
WARNING - When in France use first names with caution
So what does the world's oldest bubbly taste like?
British expats left in lurch by NHS clampdown
Tossing cigarette butts in Paris to prompt €68 fines
Culture
Cannes Film Festival reveals jury
Flamanville: France's nuclear 'calamity' that has the UK worried
Features
Forget the Mona Lisa, here's the weirdest objects you can see around Paris
For many Britons 'Waterloo' is just an Abba song or a train station
IN PICTURES: See the French ship 'Hermione' set sail again for the US
Opinion
Is it time the French scrapped tu and vous?
National
Sexual harassment rife on Paris trains
National
Marine Le Pen makes Time 'most influential' list
Cannes Film Festival line-up revealed
National
Cartoonist's book slams 'Islamophobia swindlers'
National
More French women than men lured by Isis
Society
Les Entrepreneurs: We chat with the founder of Paris Picnic
National
Edith Piaf celebrated at Parisian exhibit
How the health reforms will change life in France
Gallery
Naked protests: The French love to take their clothes off to make a point
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Then and now - the site of the Alps plane crash
Travel
So why would anyone really want to live in Lille?
Opinion
Why the French should be very worried about new spying powers
National
Spain's newest export to France: Vultures
Did a row over stolen veg lead to the murder of a British expat in France?
VIDEO: French rail chiefs SNCF furious after the Paris-Roubaix race
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
Culture
IN PICS: Take a look inside France's new 36,000 year-old tourist site
International
Did the Pope reject France's envoy to the Vatican because he was gay?
Cyberjihad: Hacking of French TV channel was 'a step up'
Politics
PROFILE: Jean-Marie Le Pen - France's far-right master provocateur
National
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police resort to calling sick
National
Dipping baguette in a bowl of coffee! - French habits foreigners don't get
Strike latest: Scores of flights cancelled in France
Features
New Calais migrant camp 'the worst in Europe'
Society
ASK THE EXPERTS: So why are the French always on strike?
National
French air traffic control strike: Tourists face travel chaos
Culture
Which stars will land an invite to the Cannes Film Festival?
Technology
Paris holds film festival for blind cinema goers
National
Paris wants to triple its number of cyclists by 2020
National
Readers tell us of the joys of living in France's 'expat no-go zones'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se