France has promised to send 1,000 troops to the near-anarchic Central African Republic, pledging Tuesday to help bring stability as human rights groups and United Nations officials warn that the seeds of genocide are being planted in the former French colony.
Whether the French forces will save lives, though, depends on how far the foreign soldiers venture outside the tumultuous capital, Bangui, to the lawless provinces where mostly Muslim rebels have been attacking Christian villages, and Christian citizen militias have emerged in recent months to launch retaliatory violence.
Tuesday’s announcement comes less than a week after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned “the country is on the verge of genocide.”
It marks the second time this year that France has sent troops to a former colony in Africa. Thousands of French soldiers launched an offensive in January to free northern Mali’s major towns from the control of al-Qaida-linked militants. After that success, the French military is now stepping up its efforts in Central African Republic, a lawless country in the heart of the continent.
No other country is expected to take action if former colonizer France doesn’t with all its military resources, said French analyst Francois Heisbourg, of the Foundation for Strategic Research think tank in Paris.
“We are a prisoner of history and geography: This is our neighborhood, and yes, we have troops in the area for historical reasons,” Heisbourg said. “And given the humanitarian situation and the political pressure, there is no way we can avoid doing this.”
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